Policies that breed fear

We’ve been a dry campus for years, and the concept isn’t a bad one. Being a dry campus limits the amount of drinking – whether residents would like to agree with that or not – and decreases the amount of alcohol-related incidents on campus.

After three years at Framingham State, however, I think it’s time to reflect on what these policies have taught me.

First off, let’s be realistic here. We are people – young adults. We are in college and, based on everything my high GPA has taught me, I can confidently say that college students drink, and they will drink – policy or not.

It’s not the school’s ideal, but life isn’t ideal, so let’s be realistic instead. The freshman who left home for the first time and the junior who just turned 21 are going to drink.

Look, I’m not asking the school to let these students get trashed on campus or even to allow drinking at all, but according to the Ram Handbook, the school strives to teach students “responsible decision-making” when it comes to drinking, which would be something I could really get behind if the school did more than simply say it.

We need policies that promote responsibility, and right now that simply isn’t the case.

According to the student handbook and the 2016-2017 Guide to Residence Living, a resident discovered with any amount of alcohol, on or inside of their person, or found with “containers that once contained alcohol … even for decorative purposes” is subject to a one-week suspension from the residence halls, as well as from “varsity or club sport athletic contests, performances or exhibits on campus or University-sponsored events, participation in official leadership roles in student or residence hall organizations and campus governance committees.”

Imagine three upperclassmen watching a movie with a few glasses of wine on Saturday night. One of them drinks too much and gets sick, but the resident of the room they are in is too terrified to get her friend help because she’s afraid she will be suspended for breaking a policy. Her friend becomes unresponsive.

At what point do we value health over policies? The amnesty policy works to prevent situations like this, but the resident wasn’t aware of this. She was so overwhelmed by the threat of suspension that lurks everywhere on this campus that she didn’t refer to her student handbook when her friend needed help.

Consider the senior who is 22 and lives on campus. During a health-and-safety check, he is found with a single empty beer can in his trash. He’s kicked off campus for a week, misses playing in two varsity soccer games and falls behind in his classes. What good does that really do?

Now, picture two first-year women spending the night getting ready for a party. They leave their building sober but have one too many beers off-campus. When they return, they are terrified that if they go to their dorm intoxicated, they will be suspended. Feeling they can’t return home, and with nowhere to go, they stay at a stranger’s house or sleep in their cars.

What message is this really sending? Is this the lesson you would teach your children? ‘If you drink too much, don’t bother coming home.’ Personally, I would rather have my children and friends home safe than drunk and then abandoned.

How does this policy promote the “responsible decision-making” the Handbook claims it teaches students?

The mentality of “don’t drink” isn’t realistic and isn’t working.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating doing away with the dry-campus rule. We all chose this school knowing it was going to be dry, and that is what it is, but it’s 2017. It’s about time we ask for realistic policies that promote responsible drinking rather than encourage a fear of it.

Penalize students for being a danger to themselves or others, or for blatantly breaking a policy they were aware of, but don’t reprimand them for trying to do the right thing.

It’s time to teach responsibility rather than breed fear.

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