By Leighah Beausoleil
The new University alcohol policy for the 2019-20 academic year was instated this semester, according to Joy LaGrutta, coordinator of alcohol and drug education and prevention, and Jay Hurtubise, director of community standards.
During the fall 2018 semester, a committee came together to discuss potential changes to the minimum sanctions of the alcohol policy, said Hurtubise.
“[We] saw opportunity for our institution’s approach to educational sanctioning for violations of the alcohol policy to align more closely with national best practices and peer institutions,” Hurtubise added.
Following President’s F. Javier Cevallos’ approval, the alcohol policy was changed for academic year 2019-20.
“The Student Affairs Committee recommended these changes to the minimum sanctions to ensure the policy remained firm in its stance to educate students on responsible decision-making and alcohol’s potential impact on the community,” Hurtubise said, “while addressing concerns of student persistence in classes during restrictions, issues of financial inequity, and the potential for impact of students with housing insecurity.”
Hurtubise added, “In the current version of the policy, typical minimum sanctions are determined by the hearing officer’s assessment of the incident and whether the student’s behavior was associated with either minimal or significant disruption.”
Change to the first violation sanctions include an option to “receive a $175 charge in lieu of restriction from residence halls. The option of paying a charge will not be available in cases where the alcohol policy violation requires intervention by [University] Police or other emergency personnel,” according to the written alcohol policy.
Other changes include the elimination of “restitution fees” associated with assessment programs. Previously, students were required to pay for the assessment programs in which they were required to enroll due to the sanctions.
The policy for first violations includes a one-week restriction from varsity or club sport athletic contests, performances or exhibits on campus or at University-sponsored events, and participation in official leadership roles in student or dorm organizations and campus governance committees.
The duration during which privileges are revoked is reduced in the current alcohol policy.
First-time violations with minimal disruption are assigned no dorm restriction, and significant disruptions are assigned two consecutive weekends – starting Friday at 6:00 p.m. and ending Sunday at 6:00 p.m.
This is to ensure “students are able to stay on campus during the academic week and reduce the likelihood that a restriction would pose any challenge to class attendance or submission of coursework,” according to Hurtubise.
Second-time violations with minimal disruption are assigned one week of dorm restriction instead of five weeks, but significant disruptions are assigned two weeks of dorm restrictions.
In addition, for first-time violations, participation in the alcohol and marijuana workshop is required.
This is an educational workshop being offered for the first time this year by LaGrutta and the Wellness Education office, and is open to all students who may be interested in attending.
LaGrutta is running the campaign for Alcohol Awareness Week, which will be extended to allow for the showcasing of more events concerning substance awareness.
LaGrutta and the Health and Wellness Center will be hosting two events in the month of October to teach students about the use and abuse of substances.
“We are doing an alcohol ‘mocktail’ event, where we are going to have some education on alcohol and serve alcohol-free drinks,” she said.
The event will be held in Larned Hall Oct. 24 at 7:00 p.m.
LaGrutta said the second event will be a “Get Resourceful Fair” to be held Oct. 30 in the McCarthy Forum.
“We [will] have all different resources available for students, but two of the tables are going to be focused on substance use,” LaGrutta said.
Outside Foster Hall, there is a display put together by LaGrutta. The display consists of red flags, each representing a college student’s life lost to alcohol in the last year.
LaGrutta added, “One of the more disturbing facts about alcohol on college campuses is the sort of really alarming statistic – with every year, between 1,800 and 1,900 college students die of a preventable alcohol fatality,” she said.
“The visual display was just an effort to make students aware of that. It’s supposed to be sort of a passive program where you walk by, you see it, and maybe you think for a minute about the powerful impact that alcohol can have.”
She explained how the addition of pictures of students from the Greater Boston area who passed away from alcohol-related complications was recommended by the student peer health educators to make the message more powerful and effective.
“You’re actually looking at the faces of students who have died from alcohol-related incidences in the last 10 years,” she added.
LaGrutta also teaches a class every other Wednesday in Foster Hall.
“It’s an alcohol and marijuana education workshop. It’s a free educational workshop for all students, and really, it’s just a way for students who might want to learn more about alcohol, who want to learn about the new marijuana industry that’s coming to Massachusetts,” LaGrutta said.
On opposite Wednesdays, there is a Smart Recovery Group “that’s available for anybody who’s thinking about making some changes to their substances,” LaGrutta said, “so not necessarily just looking for abstinence, but if you’re someone who is looking to cut back on how much you use.”