SCTV3’s Sam Read talks to Dr. Dean Braverman and students about the change in townhouse policy.
Nearly 100 students packed the Dodge Ballroom in the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union last Sunday night, frustrated and confused about what they had been told the previous Thursday. It had happened so abruptly that many questions still needed to be answered.
Representatives from all classes patiently waited until the open forum portion of the weekly Student Government Association meeting arrived. When given the chance to speak, they thoughtfully spoke their minds.
Last Thursday evening around 8 p.m., Dr. Terry Vecchio and Bohdan (Bo) Zaryckyj of Student Affairs entered each townhouse individually with an announcement for arguably the most popular on-campus spot on weekend nights.
In an effort to combat underage drinking on campus, Vecchio and Zaryckyj announced that existing policies were going to be strictly enforced starting Friday evening. All residents 21 years of age and older would have to wear a wristband if they wished to have a drink in-hand in the backyard. Anyone without a bracelet caught drinking could be written up.
Along with the wristbands, Vecchio, Zaryckyj and the Student Affairs staff were going to set up a table along the entrance to the walkway of the townhouses. Anyone who did not personally know someone in a house would be turned away. Anyone who was under 21 could have a resident of a townhouse sign them in.
“We want to make this your space,” Vecchio stressed to the seniors she addressed.
Administration and students both understand the complexities of the issue. For one, underage drinking is illegal. As stated in the Springfield College Student Handbook, “No person under 21 years of age shall keep, purchase, sell, possess or receive alcoholic beverages. Violators may be subject to arrest, criminal charges and fine.”
Along with underage drinking being illegal, Springfield College also has a policy regarding underage students in the presence of alcohol. As stated in Section 10 of the Alcohol Policy and Procedures of Individual Use, “Underage students present where alcohol is found may face disciplinary action.”
The college is also in compliance with Massachusetts’ state law concerning the consumption of alcohol.
However, the enforcement and tweaking of said policy is not as abrupt as it seems.
“It didn’t just happen in one day as you’ve heard. This is an issue we’ve been talking about since before I arrived here,” said Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs David Braverman.
“I went by [the townhouses] a few times and checked them out, and it wasn’t as bad as what I was hearing, but there was stuff going on,” Braverman said. “People were throwing beer bottles out into the field and there was a lot of inappropriate behavior and conduct there. People were just getting really drunk and there was garbage back there and just a lot of problems, a lot of problems.”
After the first few weekends of this semester, a lot of these same issues arose. Townhouse Resident Assistants and Townhouse residents took it upon themselves to clean up the yard after hearing about possible ramifications.
However, despite the efforts to clean up, many felt the quick implementation of the new enforcement came without warning or a chance to fix any problems brought up by administration. Some RA’s voiced their opinions concerning the actions taken by administration.
“We as a staff take our work very seriously, and I just wish we had been given more of a chance to fix the issue before this [action] was taken,” said Pete Kapitancek, head Townhouse RA, at Sunday’s open forum.
Katie Belleau is an RA for students under the age of 21 and understands the reasoning for administration’s enforcement of the policy but also sees this hurting the school.
“One of my jobs as an RA is to create a sense of a community for my residents, and I can’t do that as effectively now because a lot of students go home for weekends now,” said Belleau.
Along with the RA’s, students calmly voiced their opinions to the members of SGA in hopes of reaching a compromise with the administration.
“This Saturday, I saw dozens, maybe even hundreds of students flocking off campus,” said senior John Gabordi. “I understand that Springfield College has an obligation to try and combat underage drinking. I just don’t think this is the best way to go about it.”
Others backed Gabordi, citing the incidents that have happened off campus this year, questioning whether or not this is good timing to start strictly enforcing the policy. And although no one is forcing students to go off campus, the enforcement is certainly affecting the amount of activity on King Street and other houses off campus.
On Tuesday, the administration held another meeting in the Townhouse basement to address just the seniors and discuss possible solutions to the problem. Having student IDs proving that students are 21 or older and a no-backpack policy were just a couple of possibilities brought up in the meeting.
Dean Braverman and Vecchio have stressed the need for input from students to reach a compromise that benefits both the students and the school as a whole. Although no new policy or amendment to previous handbook policies has been written yet, administration was pleased to see the students of Springfield College show up to Sunday’s open forum and Tuesday’s meeting to voice their opinions.
“I love it. 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?” said Braverman.
“And for people to take some time to come out on a Sunday evening, I mean there were only 75 out of 2,000, but for 75 people on a Sunday evening to come out and take their time to express themselves and sit through an entire Senate meeting, to be able to do that, I thought was great.”
Corey Hanlon may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org