Off the Wagon
SF State dorm drinking bucks trend
September 8, 2003 10:57 AM
Overall alcohol use and related misconduct on SF State’s main campus follows the downward trend noted across all California State University campuses in a July 16 report from CSU’s Committee on Educational Policy, but violations in the residential community are steadily rising.
The report highlights CSU’s recommendations in 2001 for each campus to improve enforcement of its alcohol policies, better inform students and their parents of those policies and encourage responsible use of alcohol on campus and in the surrounding community. After two years, preliminary findings from CSU-wide surveys show alcohol use down by 5 to 10 percent and alcohol-related misconduct down 10 to 15 percent between 2002 and 2003, according to the report.
The total number of liquor violations dropped to 121 in 2002 from 169 the year before, according to SF State’s Department of Public Safety. But SF State’s residential community, which includes Mary Park and Mary Ward Halls and The Village at Centennial Square, is bucking the downward trend. Incidents of illegal alcohol use have been climbing, from 81 in 1999 to 114 in 2002.
Lt. Jerry Troubaugh of the Department of Public Safety’s Special Services Division said the alcohol-related incidents noted in the residential community are not necessarily committed by SF State’s resident students. The incidents are logged in the statistics based on where they happened, he said.
In other words, a drunken person who wandered off Lake Merced Boulevard into the area of The Village and was arrested would be logged in the residential community statistics for alcohol-related arrests.
Still, there are known problems with alcohol among some groups of SF State’s students.
Michael Ritter, coordinator of SF State’s Creating Empowerment Through Alcohol and Substance-Abuse Education (CEASE) program, said traditional college-drinking patterns show that freshmen can be a problem group.
"Freshmen do a lot of experimenting and that includes with alcohol," he said.
The mingled thrill and anxiety of being away from home and the freedom to try new things often causes freshmen to be more likely to abuse alcohol, Ritter said.
The times of heavy alcohol consumption are often during the first couple of weeks of school as people come to campus for the first time, reunite with old friends and celebrate, Ritter said.
The connection between alcohol use among freshmen and SF State’s residential community might have to do with the large number of freshmen in Mary Park and Mary Ward Halls, Ritter said.
Most of the students in Mary Park and Mary Ward Halls are under 20 years old, said David Rourke, assistant director of SF State’s Residential Life Department.
"We have a dry community," he said, but admitted the rules are not always followed. Crime statistics testify to that.
For example, the residential community accounted for two of the three arrests and 79 of the 80 disciplinary referrals in 1999.
Rourke said that only about a third of SF State students in the halls had a problem with occasional binge drinking.
"Those are the ones on the floors in the bathrooms," he said.
Rourke referred to an incident over the Aug. 23 weekend when a few students got drunk and collapsed between the Halls and The Village.
Troubaugh from Public Safety spoke of two incidents that weekend when students were helplessly drunk in SF State’s residential areas. The police came and took the students away to the county jail for the night to sober up, he said.
In 2001, the number of alcohol-related arrests across all of the main campus, including the residential communities, went from four arrests in 2000 to eight in 2001 and from 90 disciplinary referrals to 161. In this same year, the number of students of drinking age living on campus increased dramatically with the opening of The Village, SF State’s housing for upperclassmen.
But the opening of The Village did not cause a spike in alcohol-related incidents within the residential community; instead, the numbers of arrests and referrals continued to rise at the same steady rate as in previous years.
Mike Murphy, general manager of The Village, said the Residential Affairs department of the Village does a good job of working with residents to keep them informed of campus policy and enforcement procedures and encourage them to get involved in community events that don’t involve alcohol. He credits the department’s 12-person staff for keeping alcohol-related misconduct under control.
But alcohol use is a major part of life at the Village. Matt Prince, a resident at The Village, said there have been parties every night since people started moving in this semester. The 22-year old business major described these parties as a way for students to unwind after the demands of work and school. But some parties were more about hanging out and playing cards, he said.
“This is a very quiet party school,” he said.
Prince described bartending his own “Pimps and Ho’s” party over the weekend as a smooth event – people started arriving at 10:30 and were out by 12:15, fifteen minutes before The Village’s time for mandating quiet. But by that time, “people were just getting buzzed,” not yet really partying. He then went to another party that lasted until 3:30.
Prince said he did not attend all the parties at The Village out of concern for his health and his work, but said partying was a definite part of the college experience.
Overall, SF State’s students are not heavy drinkers, according to Ritter from CEASE. Among the 70 percent of students who drink, the average they consume is only 2.5 drinks per week, Ritter said referring to a survey done by the Core Institute of the University of Southern Illinois in the spring 2002. Only 30 percent of the 2000 students who responded to the survey said they occasionally binge drink.
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