Starting this semester, students on campus will be subject to a new Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Policy that, with some exceptions, prohibits open containers of alcohol on University property. The Code of Non-academic Conduct has also been altered to prohibit the misuse of prescription drugs.
“Possession of open containers of alcohol is prohibited at all times and at all campus locations, except in private residential settings where the residents are of legal age or during registered events,” states the new policy, which has been incorporated into this year’s student handbook. “In addition, the possession or consumption of alcohol on City property, streets and sidewalks is prohibited by City ordinance. (Note: Members of the Wesleyan community who are of legal drinking age may consume alcohol on Foss Hill during daylight hours.)”
The proposal for the new policy was drafted by the Code of Non-Academic Conduct (CNAC) Committee and the AOD Committee over the course of the last academic school year and was adopted by the University at the end of the Spring ’10 semester. The AOD Committee which drafted the proposal for the new policy is comprised of staff from the Dean’s Office, the Office of Public Safety (PSafe), Physical Plant, the Office of Residential Life (ResLife), the faculty representative to the Student Judicial Board (SJB) and student representatives from the SJB, ResLife and the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA).
The WSA expressed concerns about the open container aspect of the policy in an e-mail sent to all students on July 24. During last year’s WSA Presidential election, the issue was a hotly contested issue which WSA President Micah Feiring ‘11 opposed.
“The WSA voted unanimously to oppose the open container restrictions,” Feiring wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “Student representatives are concerned that the new policy will jeopardize student safety by encouraging more dangerous drinking patterns. I am personally afraid that this policy will drive drinking behind closed doors, make unsafe drinking more difficult to monitor, and encourage pre-gaming and other dangerous indoor drinking activities.”
Over the summer, the WSA worked with Dean Mike Whaley, Vice President for Student Affairs, to include the clause allowing drinking on Foss Hill and in the yards of wood frame houses. According to Feiring, the WSA will continue to work with the administration to create a policy more in line with the concerns of students.
“As we move forward we are going to see how the new policy affects student life,” Feiring wrote. “If the policy causes real problems for students, I have no doubt students will cause real problems for the administration until the policy is changed.”
The amended policy took into account the open container policies of other New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) institutions, as well as member schools of the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE).
“This change brings our policy more in line with our peers, and should help us address problems associated with transient public drinking, clarify expectations for alcohol use on University property, and resolve discrepancies between University policy and existing City ordinances,” Dean Whaley wrote in an e-mail to all students on campus on June 9.
Dean Whaley’s e-mail also specified that the misuse of prescription drugs is also now prohibited by the AOD policy.
“Many students have raised this issue [of prescription drug use] with me in my role as advisor to the Honor Board,” Dean Whaley added in an e-mail to The Argus. “In particular, students have asked about whether or not misusing prescription drugs as ‘study aids’ violated the spirit of Wesleyan’s Honor Code. In short, is it cheating? Most students with whom I’ve discussed the issue feel that it is a form of cheating.”
For the moment, the new alcohol policy has not led to a dramatic crackdown on public drinking. On Saturday, PSafe officers were seen at several parties, explaining the new policy to hosts and even breaking up some unregistered outdoor gatherings that had grown too large.
“As always, at the beginning of the semester we try education where practical,” said Dave Meyer, Director of PSafe. “With this new policy, we’re planning to do a couple weeks education on the policy, and then we’ll really be enforcing it.”
Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Rick Culliton expressed his doubts that the new policy would have adverse effects on student life.
“We realize that some student leaders have expressed concern about the change, however, we believe that this change brings our policy in line with most other schools and that the change will have a minimal impact on campus life for those who are of legal age,” Dean Culliton wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “My words of advice for new students are to take the time to get to know what is expected here at Wesleyan. I think they’ll find that our policies are clear and reasonable and as a result they shouldn’t be surprised if other students or staff confront them if they are underage and choose to drink or if they use drugs. We want students to enjoy their time at Wesleyan but we also want them to make good decisions and to be accountable for those decisions.”
Feiring shared his own advice for incoming students.
“I would encourage students to be careful and make responsible choices,” he wrote. “I am going to be taking my blanket and six-pack to Foss Hill.”