Res. Life implements strategy to handle alcohol violations
April 29, 2010
The re-evaluated alcohol policy in UW-River Falls’ residence halls has increased the residence life department’s ability to educate students about the harms of drinking.
“The new policy allows us to have more educational discussions with students and allows for follow-ups with them. Kristie Feist, assistant director of Residence Life said, “The new policy also helps the resident assistants build stronger relationships with the people on their floor. It reduces animosity between students and the policy enforcers.”
The new alcohol policy has not reduced the number of policy violations, but it has increased the resident life staff’s ability to provide an educational intervention with the students, according to Feist. During the fall 2009-10 semester, six percent of all students who live in the halls had a policy violation. Seventy-six percent of that six percent were alcohol related, according to Feist. So with 2,500 students in the halls, 115 students had alcohol violations. This number is extremely low compared to other UW System schools, according to Feist.
There are changes to the old policy in regards to who is notified first of possible violations in the halls. It used to be that campus police were called right away when suspicious behavior was happening. In the new policy, it is the resident assistant’s job to be first on the scene. If everyone in the room is cooperative and has identification, then the whole process can be handled through the residence life office. If the situation is beyond control, then campus police will be called in to assist, according to Feist.
The policy has repercussions set up for four policy violations, according to the Residence Life Conduct Guide. The first violation will result in the resident being required to complete an online alcohol education course, which they will have to pay for themselves. They will also sign a statement of understanding and have six months of residence life probation. The probation means that more severe consequences will result should another violation occur. This includes removal from the residence halls. This is only conduct probation; it doesn’t appear on a student’s transcript and is not related to their academic career, according to Feist.
The second violation will bring the student a referral to Student Health Services for an assessment, for which the resident will be charged $110. The resident’s parents or guardians will be notified, and their residence life probation will be extended to one year.
The third violation will result in residence hall relocation or ban, as well as going on probation for the tenure of being a student.
On the fourth violation, a student will be kicked out of the halls completely.
Students in the residence halls receive a code of conduct at the beginning of the school year. The code outlines policies and consequences, regarding alcohol, burning of candles, possession of drugs, pets, weapons and more. The information is also posted on the resident life’s Web site.
Ellie Bares, the Prucha Hall manager, likes the changed policy.
“It is a good policy; there is no way that Public Safety could handle all of it. There is some tension between the resident assistants and the students but the resident assistants can see everything that is going on. It is easier to pick up on the issue and deal with it,” Bares said.
Residence Life sends out a survey every year to students living in the halls. This survey, called the Educational Benchmarking Inc. (EBI), measures areas of satisfaction for students living on campus, according to Feist. The results from last year’s survey showed that 70 percent of students on campus either drank just once a week or not at all. That is a very high number of students refraining from drinking compared to the other UW System schools, according to Feist.
When asked if the Residence Life staff has accomplished what they set out to do with the new policy, Feist said, “We are well on our way to making a change. It is a long road to change the drinking culture of a college. There needs to be more education about the perceptions of drinking versus the realities. As the survey shows, there are 70 percent of students who do not regularly partake in drinking. There are students who don’t drink; they are just not as vocal about it as those students who do.”