ResLife policy updated to ban drinking games, hard alcohol

| Staff Reporter

In order to better comply with Missouri state law, the Office of Residential Life has made three additions to the alcohol policy for the 2017-2018 school year, including banning drinking games and the consumption of hard alcohol in the presence of those under age 21.

The hard alcohol ban and the ban on drinking games have long been informally enforced by ResLife staff. The third addition, which places the medical amnesty protocol within the alcohol policy, seeks to make the protocol more visible to students. No changes have been made to the protocol itself.

The additions were made following the annual review of all ResLife policies at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year. While revisiting the alcohol policy, ResLife decided to clarify the informal no drinking games and no hard alcohol policies so that residential advisors would have more clarity in enforcing the policies.

“What was happening with 136 RAs is [that the alcohol policy] was being differentially enforced,” Rob Wild, dean of students and associate vice chancellor for student transition and engagement, said. “And so what we said was, ‘We want you to engage, any time you see a possible policy violation or anything, we just want you to engage.’”

The wording surrounding penalties for students who violate any part of the alcohol policy, however, remains vague.

“Students who violate the alcohol policy may be required to meet with their [Residential College Director] and may be referred to a representative of the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, the alcohol and other drugs health educator, or other campus resources,” the policy says.

“We really try to view follow up when [it] comes to alcohol as educational and from a wellness perspective,” Wild said of the policy’s vagueness. “Our intent is not to send every single case to the Office of Student Conduct—we need to have a little bit of educational wiggle room in our follow up.”

Another motivating factor for the changes, specifically with respect to the hard alcohol addition, was the percentage of students who were sent to the hospital as a result of drinking. Over 80 percent of the hospital transports last year were students who had consumed hard alcohol, according to Wild.

“Hard alcohol is an interesting one, too, because not unlike drinking games, RAs have been enforcing it for years,” Wild said. “When they encounter hard alcohol at a party, they will more likely than not ask the resident to pour it out anyway, so we’re just trying to be explicit about that.”

As these policy additions are originating from ResLife, they will not affect current fraternity and sorority alcohol policies, though Wild noted that the Greek life policies would be reviewed early this year, as well.

The policy additions are also not meant to enforce beyond Missouri state law. If students are over 21, they are allowed to have hard alcohol in their rooms. If every student in a ResLife apartment is over 21, then hard alcohol can be kept in the common spaces as well.

No changes have been made to the medical amnesty protocol, which encourages students to seek medical care in an alcohol-related emergency rather than deferring to inaction from fear of penalties. The protocol says that neither the patient nor student who called for emergency services will be subject to University discipline for violation of the alcohol policy.

The medical amnesty protocol has been added has been added as part of the update to the alcohol policy, rather than continuing to exist as a separate protocol.

As a whole, the policy additions are meant to discourage “dangerous and excessive behaviors,” according to Wild, while also creating a welcoming community for all Washington University students.

“The tricky thing about Residential Life housing and residence halls is our RAs and RCDs are really trying to create communities where everyone feels safe, included and supported—and that involves people who have very different views around alcohol and whether they want to engage with alcohol,” Wild said. “The more consistent and clear we can be on the front end about what our expectations are, we feel the better that is for the full community.”

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