Alcohol policies under revision

By ChelseaRae Rowley

What policies need to be in place in order to ensure student safety and to decrease risk when alcohol is a factor?

This is the exact question that college administrators, faculty, and staff want to answer, and they are asking for student help at their meetings, which are Tuesday and Thursday from 4-5 p.m. in Tyler-Van Dusen’s Heather Room.

Since Feb. 17, a task force has been analyzing methods in place at other institutions, brainstorming fresh policies, and collaborating with students in order to safeguard them and to ensure the sustainability of new procedures.

The group ranges from the student body president, to professors, to security staff members, all the way to President Jeff Abernathy.

Although the group is currently small, its members hope to incorporate student opinion by opening meetings and answering questions directly.

The goal of the task force, which has been established by Abernathy and Vice President for Student Life Nick Piccolo, is simply to keep students safe.

“There is nothing more important than student safety,” said Abernathy at the March 6 State of the College Address. “We want to establish policies that in place to limit risk, not eliminate it. [Parents] don’t expect the college to eliminate risk, but we as an institution have to make sure that we are providing the safest place possible [for students].”

Administration is not planning to make Alma College a “dry” campus; however, they are looking to change the culture surrounding the institution.

“We already have a culture of caring,” said Piccolo. “Our goal is to begin a cultural shift toward embracing safety issues for students and the whole community as part of our caring. I think we do this by being as inclusive as possible in the discussions and by establishing policies that reflect the value of safety for our community.”

Currently, the task force does not have specific policies that it would like to see established.

“We’re seeking a broad conversation to include all constituencies of the college, especially students,” said Abernathy.

One of the “broad conversations” took place on March 6 in an open dialogue between Abernathy, Piccolo, Dana Aspinall, associate professor of English, and students.

At this event, administration encouraged students to brainstorm ideas, share opinions, and critique current policies.

Zack Medici (’14) shared his concerns about the policies currently in place.

“During my freshman year, we had a party policy that required fraternities to have their own security,” he said. “This put more liability onto individual chapters rather than the school.”

Abernathy answered that Medici’s concern is a shared worry of administration.

“We have developed a task force, which is headed by Dr. Piccolo, in order to review best practices used by other institutions,” he said. “We are exploring policies used at the University of Michigan and other colleges throughout Michigan.”

The recently developed committee is still in the beginning stages. So far the group has “discussed and shared information about the magnitude of the issue, reviewed some of the research that we have, and discussed some of the elements of best practice,” said Piccolo.

The group has also discussed various alcohol policies for all small housing units, the possibility of limiting alcohol storage by individuals, and the idea of restricting the types of alcohol on campus.

So far, no final decisions have been made regarding policy revisions.

“Our next steps are to begin reviewing college and proposed policy and practice, and ultimately generating recommendations for the president,” said Piccolo.

In the meantime, faculty and staff provide reminders about the current policy called the Good Samaritan Act.

“Our current policy states that no one will face judicial procedures for their own behavior if they are trying to get another student to safety, so there isn’t a reason to hesitate about whether to call security,” said Abernathy.

“Students should know that they can call security at 7777 for any concern they have, including getting a ride if they need it, no questions asked,” he added.

The group will conclude on March 28 and will propose its findings to the executive staff of the college.

The discussion for next week will include policy revision suggestions. All are welcome at committee meetings.

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