Students question alcohol policies at Administrative Forum

(Administrators listen to concerns expressed by many SGA senators regarding the University’s alcohol policy. Photo by Bailey Morrison.)

Students expressed concerns regarding FSU’s alcohol policy during the Administrative Forum on Thursday, April 13.

The forum allowed students to voice opinions and concerns to a panel of administrators.

The panel consisted of President F. Javier Cevallos, Executive Vice President Dale Hamel, Dean of Students Melinda Stoops, Director of Residence Life Glenn Cochran, Chief of Staff and General Counsel Rita Colucci, Provost and Vice President Linda Vaden-Goad, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Development Lorretta Holloway, Director of Dining Services Ralph Eddy and Director of Community Standards Jay Hurtubise.

Jack Capello, SGA senate chair, said he understands the reasons for FSU being a dry campus but said students told him when they turn 21, “They don’t feel it yet, because they are in an environment where they feel restricted.”

Hurtubise said FSU’s dry campus policy aligns with the University’s focus on academics.

“That’s why [drinking] is a privilege that can and will be denied. … I can say that in the fall, I will be rolling out a multiple-piece awareness campaign about our code of conduct that really gets students aware of what it is and why it’s there. Right now, we struggle with student awareness on what our policies are and that also connects to why we have these policies at all,” he said.

Hurtubise added he believes FSU students value and support the University’s academic focus and it’s a primary reason they choose to attend.

He said, “In terms of catering to students who are looking for more of the media-based party experience, I don’t think that is something the University needs to focus on.”

Capello said, “There are people that are going out and doing this. So, how do we do it in a safe and friendly way? This is about creating a safe environment for these people.”

Capello added the University’s Medical Amnesty Policy helps students make safe and responsible decisions.

According to the Ram Student Handbook, the “Medical Amnesty Policy serves as a supplement to the University’s Alcohol and Drug Policies and is designed to encourage help-seeking behavior for individuals requiring medical assistance. This policy provides amnesty from consequences through University Student Conduct and does not preclude hospitalization, protective custody, interim suspension or other actions deemed relevant for student safety.”

SGA Secretary Bridget Green said, “No one knows about the Amnesty Policy, and I think that needs to be something widely broadcasted.”

She added students refrain from helping someone because they are afraid of getting in trouble.

According to Karl Bryan, student trustee, “During R.A. training, you are told not to tell residents specifically about the amnesty policy existing. To not spread it. To not make it that you can party and not get in trouble.”

Stoops said every fall, she sends emails to students informing them of policies and the amnesty policy is described in the emails.

She added, “I’m sorry people don’t read it, but it’s sent out.”

Senator Hailey Small said the wording of the alcohol policy is problematic.

She said, “One of the problems is the phrase, ‘Your body is a container,’ … which I know has made people kind of afraid to drink on campus. It makes people afraid to drink off campus and find their way back, because if they come back and they even appear a bit noticeably drunk and they are 21, they are at fault.”

Hurtubise said, “Our policy actually defines public intoxication in the alcohol policy. The ‘Your body is a container’ – I’m interested to know where that originated from.”

Maddie Alper, SGA class and club treasurer, said the University provides a sexual assault awareness presentation during Orientation, but there isn’t anything about the alcohol policy and nothing is said about the Medical Amnesty Policy.

She added, “No one knows that that’s a thing. I think that’s so unsafe. It’s put in for safety reasons. I’ve heard other R.A.s saying, ‘Don’t spread that around. That’s not something people need to know about.’

“So, I think there is some obvious miscommunication. … I think from day one at Orientation, they should be taught this. They are taught about sexual assault, which is great, but college is a place where they are going to be trying new things. … You’re not going to know what to do when your friends are lying there. You don’t want to get in trouble and kicked off. You don’t want to risk your safety,” Alper said.

Cochran said students drinking is an academic issue. “High levels of drinking can disrupt people who are not the ones drinking.”

Senator Seth Signa said he thinks the most important aspect is the wording of the message that is being put out by the University.

He added, “Everyone here knows that if you drink on campus, you are going to get in trouble. I do not think that needs to be re-iterated. … Everyone on campus knows this, but as we all said, no one on campus really knows about the Amnesty Policy. I understand why the school is a dry campus – I’m not here to say, ‘Change that.’”

He added students are adults, and he feels they aren’t treated as such.

Hurtubise said administrators don’t want to “micromanage” students.

He added, “That’s not what we’re here for. … We are here to guide them, present a frame-work for them to be successful and support services so they can do great things.”

Stoops said, “If you are over 21 and you go off campus and you have a drink or two or three and pace yourself and you’re not intoxicated, that’s fine. No one cares. We just want you to be safe, and we want you to respect other people.”

Senator Molly Fennessey expressed concerns about the handicap accessibility in McCarthy Center.

She said, “In the back, they have the ramp to get in, but there is nothing in the front. Obviously, you aren’t going to go through the back when trying to get in the front because you have to swipe into the dining hall. It’s like, you can’t get into the main part of the building. It makes more sense to have the handicap accessibility in the front.”

Green said there is a ramp in the back section of McCarthy, but there isn’t a button to open the door. She added a person may be able to get up the ramp but they won’t be able to open the door unless they have someone else with them to provide assistance.

Several senators expressed concerns about the absence of a button to open the front doors of the McCarthy as well.

Hamel said, “We recently renovated. We did it over a five-year period. For some reason, we didn’t get the push button in on the front. For some reason, that wasn’t a part of that project. We will re-examine that.”

Alper said the elevator in McCarthy has been breaking down more frequently.

She said, “I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that it has been broken almost every day. So that’s obviously not handicap accessible.”

She added, “Sometimes, it’s fixed really fast, but one day, it was out the whole day. So, I just think about my peers who can’t get to class in this building, and that’s obviously not their fault.”

Bryan said, “In Larned Hall, the elevators are constantly broken. Last week, it was kind of a safety issue, also, because it was working but the doors were slammed shut. It was fixed for a day, then it was broken again.”

He added, “I had a resident on my floor who was with crutches and couldn’t get to class very often because the elevator takes so long to get to the sixth floor.”

Hamel said, “The elevators should be a matter of just changing them out.” He added the University will have to look into why they are breaking often.

Small expressed concern about the SILD office being understaffed.

She said, “I think we can say service is valued on this campus at a surface level, where faculty, staff and students say they have an appreciation for it. And they express it though their words and their actions, but not necessarily on the fundamental level where there is enough staffing for the needs that we have. I know this has come up in the past, and people have addressed it, saying, ‘We are working on it,’ but being in the office that does quite a bit of service, I’ve seen very little being done to actually facilitate that.”

She added, “I just think it’s kind of difficult for us to all say we value service at our University and how we want to see it continue and grow, when nothing is really being done on an institutional level to preserve that.”

Stoops said she agreed with Small. “It’s a shame there is not more staff to do service. … SILD has fewer staff now than they did in the past, and the reality is with fewer staff, something has to take a hit. As you know, we have over 50 clubs.”

She added the University doesn’t want to keep students from forming new clubs.

She said, “FSU has several well-received leadership programs that focus on important skills that we don’t want to lose.”

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