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Report shows increase in underage drinking

November 10, 2010

Highlighted by drastic increases in drinking violations, the 2010 UW-River Falls Campus Security Report has been released by the Residence Life Student Rights and Responsibilities Department.

The report is designed to give students, staff and members of the River Falls community an understanding of what is going on in the area, specifically pertaining to crimes and violations.

According to the report, the intentions are to provide students with general information regarding campus safety and security.

The annual release of the report is in compliance with the federal law formally known as the Student Right to Know and Campus Security act of 1990, unofficially known as the Clery Act since its proposal in the 1980s.

Highlighted in the report are several crimes that occurred on campus in 2009. While no extensive details of the crimes are provided, several charts make up a visual representation of the events.

Officer Patricia Forsberg said that the report is a good way for students to learn about the laws and regulations that apply to them everyday.

“It’s very helpful for the students to have an understanding of what is going on around them,” Forsberg said. “It’s also a part of being a respectable member of the community.”

Increased underage alcohol violations do not surprise Forsberg.

Forsberg said it is well known that college students are going to drink, and the real problem lies within the intent of the action, not in the student.

“We know that [underage consumption] is going to happen,” Forsberg said. “We wish it wouldn’t, but really what we are asking for is responsibility from the students.”

With underage alcohol violations on campus spiking more than double from 85 in 2008, to 225 in 2009, Forsberg said that Residence Life and policies implemented in that department are a part of the explanation.

“We work very closely with the Residence Life staff to try to promote a safe campus environment,” Forsberg said.

Assistant Director for Residence Life-Community Development and Education Kristie Feist said that newly implemented guidelines and procedures concerning alcohol-related violations on campus are something that the department has been working to improve since her arrival on campus.

“I’ve been here for five years,” Feist said. “Our policy, when I first got here, was anytime the staff thought that there was drinking, specifically underage drinking, going on in the halls, their first step was to contact public safety at that time.”

Feist said that changes in the approach of handling underage alcohol violations in the residence halls is something that took form in 2008 and was fully implemented in 2009.

“In 2008, we did a lot of research and looked into what other peer institutions were doing in regards to confronting underage drinking,” Feist said. “We found that what we were doing really wasn’t a typical practice.”

Feist continued by saying that institutions similar to UWRF had a system in place where which a resident assistant would confront the situation before calling the police.

“Looking at how our peer institutions and other institutions in Wisconsin were doing that, we thought, why don’t we align more,” Feist said. “We felt like it was a better practice.”

Feist said that the increase in underage alcohol violations can also be attributed to the growth of the Residence Life staff.

“Before 2008, we were a staff of three,” Feist said. “After 2008, we were a staff of six.”

Students say that they have heard of the Campus Security Report, but do not know what it says or means.

“I got the e-mail but never really got the chance to open it and look at what it really is,” said junior Melissa Beres.

Students who wish to learn more can access the report on the UWRF website.

Further information regarding citations, laws, and residence life guidelines can be found in the Department of Residence Life Student Rights and Responsibility guide, which is available in the Involvement Center of the University Center.