Tolerance Level

A look at the recent alcohol related policies and how they’re affecting the Elon community

By Daniel Temple

For many, college is a time of new opportunities and experiences. Often times, many of these experiences will inevitably be coupled with the use and abuse of alcohol.

In January of 2007, Elon President Leo Lambert appointed a task force to address the issue of student drinking. As a result, a number of policies were implemented in order to reflect Elon’s updated stance on the issue alcohol.

While school officials maintain that the student’s best interests were in mind with the recent policies, a number of students can’t help but feel frustrated. They claim that Elon’s new position on alcohol is overly aggressive, and that the school is making serious encroachments into their social life.

The school on the other hand feels that it is imperative that they take a sincere approach to the issue, in order to ensure the safety of the students, as well as to maintain a certain level of academic and social integrity.

Still however, the debate rages on…

The student’s response

One of the biggest complaints from students is that the school has become too involved in the private lives of its students.

“These new policies are ridiculous,” said Ryan Davis, a junior at Elon. “The school is basically trying to control how we party, which they shouldn’t have the power to do.”

Drinking has always been a visible part of the Elon community. In fact, the most recent CORE data (2007) shows that Elon students drink almost twice the amount of alcohol per week as students nationally (10.4 vs. 5.4 drinks).

“It’s kind of hard not to drink here at Elon,” said Lindsay Collins, a freshman from Boston, Massachusetts. “It seems like nearly everyone is drinking at the bar, parties or tail gate events.”

It’s this kind of atmosphere that Elon is trying to cut down on. However, the increased sanctions for alcohol violations, along with a greater enforcement presence have certainly caught the attention of the student body.

“Elon has just taken this whole alcohol thing and gone over-the-top,” said Davis. “They’ve really gotten out of control.”

Many students come to Elon and hear stories about how the school used to turn a blind eye to such behavior. A few graduates recalled the social atmosphere when they came to Elon as freshman.

“When I first came to school, you didn’t see as many people being written up like you do now,” said Justin Ellis, a 2007 graduate. “Alcohol had a much bigger presence back then, and the school was definitely a lot more lenient.”

Many students and graduates agree that the school has changed, not just in its policies, but in the way students are partying. They feel as if the policies have taken away some of the fun at Elon, as current students are hesitant to engage in drinking and risk possible sanctions.

“These new policies have certainly detracted from the overall social atmosphere at Elon,” said Bill Campbell, a 2004 graduate. “Everyone is just too wound up over an issue that really isn’t that big of a deal.”

The school’s officials speak out

While many students feel as if the school is intruding on their personal freedoms, Elon officials assert that the revised policies and position was done to protect the students, rather than limit their social activities.

“The ultimate goal for the new policies here at Elon is to clarify our position on alcohol, as well as to educate students on the dangers of high risk drinking,” said Jeff Clark, a math professor and faculty co-chair on the task force on alcohol. “We want students to know that this sort of behavior is detrimental to themselves and to the university, and must be dealt with accordingly.”

Clark said that he believes the changes that have been made are good ones. He wants students to excel, and doesn’t want to see students handicap themselves by participating in dangerous, high risk drinking.

“We really tried to approach this issue from all angles,” said Clark. “We certainly didn’t want to lead a witch hunt, but it was imperative that we got the message across to the students.”

Interestingly enough, since the inception of the new policies, although the number of judicial reports concerning alcohol violations have increased, the number of violations has actually gone down.

From June 2006 to June 2007 there were a total of 1118 reported incidents with 623 violations. From June 2007 to June 2008 there were 1204 reported incidents with only 554 violations.

Essentially this means that the school is taking a more aggressive approach by reporting every incident, but is still exercising discretion in how the situation is dealt with.

“I think that our whole attitude reflects a nationwide sentiment,” said Assistant Director of Judicial Affairs, Whitney Pack-Gregory. “We can no longer just turn away, we must respond, but at the same time we’re going to look at every incident carefully with a certain level of sensitivity.”

Both Jeff Clark and Whitney Pack-Gregory believe that Elon is more or less on the same level as other schools regarding its policies toward alcohol and drinking. Each said that a number of other schools were looked at when revisions were being made, particularly those that share similarities with Elon as an institution.

“We spent a lot of time looking at how other schools such as Duke, handled their own issues with student drinking,” said Clark.

“We feel that our policies are essentially the same as other schools,” said Pack-Gregory. “The differences come from how much enforcement is being utilized.”

Working together for the future

Although the initial period following the policies was met with a bit of friction, it appears that students are slowly beginning to accept the new environment.

“I think that right now we’re still in kind of in an awkward adolescence stage with these policies,” said Pack-Gregory. “But with time, we’ll be able to see what works and what doesn’t, and in the mean time students will become used to way things are.”

“It’s still too early to tell how effective these policies are,” said Clark. “But initial results indicate that the system is working, and of course we’re always open to student input regarding the situation.”

The school demonstrated this willingness to cooperate with students after they acquired Lighthouse Bar earlier this year. Officials decided to maintain the building as a bar, in order to provide a university run place where students of legal age can drink responsibly.

“I mean it’s not perfect,” said Collins. “But it shows the school is willing to work with students on the issue, and that they’re not completely against drinking.”

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