On Sunday night, a group of students gathered in the Dodge Ballroom. They were frustrated and felt belittled. They had complaints to air and they were angry.
They sat through a 45-minute Student Government Association General Council meeting just so they could speak with members of the administration. When their time came to speak, these students showed a vast amount of maturity, and it was honestly a phenomenal sight.
Last Thursday night, residents of the Townhouses received a knock on the door and were told by Associate Dean of Campus Life Terry Vecchio and Coordinator, Alcohol & Other Drug Education and Community Standards Bo Zaryckyj of a new change in enforcement of alcohol policies.
Students were informed that the rules regarding visitors to the Townhouses on the weekends would be changing. Starting the next night, all non-residents of the Townhouses would have to be signed in, those who were over 21 would have to wear a wristband and guests who were under 21 would not be allowed in the backyard and would need to stay inside. If alcohol was present, those who were not of age were not allowed inside at all.
“You know, it’s in the code of conduct,” said Dean of Students David Braverman. “And the whole thing, that no one’s supposed to be in the backyards who’s not 21 years old, these are not new policies. We’re trying to figure out how to work it because I was hearing from a lot of folks who were seeing a lot of people coming out of the backyards, who were freshmen and sophomores, as it was being cleared out. So we said, okay, we know they’ve been doing a good job with everything else, we don’t want to stop them from having parties, but we’ve got to get a handle on the underage people drinking.”
Braverman and the Student Affairs office worked out this “wristband policy” and implemented it with very little student input and no warning to the student body. This understandably led to a fair amount of consternation among the students of Springfield College as a whole and the residents of the Townhouses in particular.
I understand the administration’s position. They can’t let underage drinking continue. If they know it is happening, the school has a responsibility to put a stop to it. Not only is it illegal, but it is also a liability for the school. Anyone who argues otherwise isn’t living in the real world. Will college students drink underage? Yes, but just because it happens does not mean the school should condone it.
There have been incidents at the Townhouses that have included physical altercations and students being sent to the respite center or hospital. According to Braverman, most of these students were not even Townhouse residents. The school felt that they needed to step in, and they have every right to.
I do believe that the policies put in place were heavy-handed and overly strict. Residents of the Townhouses chose to live there for a reason. I feel that there are other ways to control underage drinking rather than banning those who are underage. The freedom from sign-ins and the active social scene were a large part of the decision to live in the Townhouses for students.
“I’m concerned because I had to sign in my boyfriend who’s 22 years old,” said senior Kaitlin Reilly. “I had to wait in line to have them write down my name and I had to stand there for five minutes before I could even walk to my own house. I decided to live in the Townhouses because it was less strict with the signing in, with the policies, etc..”
Residents of the Townhouses were not consulted before these changes were made. I feel that at least the administration could have attempted to work with the residents and further with the Resident Assistants in the residence hall before handing down these new rules.
Facebook, Twitter and other conversations around campus are prime indicators that the student body was overall frustrated.
But on Sunday night, something truly inspiring happened. Nearly 100 students, from all classes and dorms across campus, decided that rather than just complain among themselves, they would try and do something about a rule they felt was wrong. These students were only a small percentage of the campus, but they were concerned enough to take action.
And the administration listened.
Dean Braverman and Zaryckyj were on hand to listen to students and answer questions.
“I think it was great,” said Zaryckyj, “I think it was positive, no one got out of control. I wasn’t sure what to expect coming in.”
Whatever anyone expected, I don’t think it was what happened. Students stood up offering opinions, ideas and solutions. Most of them understood the administration’s position and respected the administration’s opinion, but students merely felt that the situation could have been handled better.
Several suggestions were voiced. The most popular of which was to issue wristbands to those of age but still allow underage students into the backyard. This would allow drinking to be easily policed.
However, this would lead to a discussion/change of policy on the current Springfield College policy known as “In the Presence.” Any student under the age of 21 cannot even be in the presence of alcohol.
“I’m here because this policy that they’re choosing to enforce now just kind of took everybody by surprise,” said senior Gary York. “I just kind of wanted to support, see what their opinions are and try and get other students’ opinions…just try and be a student body.
I want some trust in the seniors and give us the opportunity to police ourselves,” York added. “And if that doesn’t work out and stuff keeps rising like it has been, then that’s the time for them to step in but let us be responsible. Give us our senior year, and we’ll do our best with it.”
Braverman was happy to see the amount of people who turned out and was encouraged by the tone of the meeting, where everyone’s opinions where heard.
“I love it,” said Dean Braverman. “I mean, if people don’t express their concerns, how are we going to know there’s an issue and how can I address it if I don’t know people are concerned about it?”
Braverman and Zaryckyj promised to take all of the ideas and suggestions under consideration and work with students to figure out how to best control underage drinking at the Townhouses. Sunday night showed that changes can be made. It showed that the administration is willing to listen to students and welcomes their input. It showed that the student body can make their voices heard in an effective, respectful manner. This is how things should be done.
Bravo, Springfield College.
Josh Ernst may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org