Before I begin, let me just applaud all of the efforts from our new Springfield College president, Dr. Mary-Beth Cooper. She has made such an incredible difference, seemingly overnight. Students are drawn to her, and employees are ecstatic to be under her leadership. Overall, Dr. Cooper has made, and continues to make an impact on Springfield College.
That being said, no institution is perfect. There are flaws seeping in and out of every single university and college. Springfield College has made enormous strides to better our school. Public Safety is now armed and the lighting on campus has improved, making students feel exponentially safer. However, there is something that has not been addressed that I feel should have been made a priority from the start: the alcohol policy.
On page 56 of our student handbook, Springfield College has listed all of its expectations of its students involving alcohol. Most, if not all of those rules, parallel the alcohol laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Rules such as:
Alcohol consumption of anyone under the age of 21 is prohibited and illegal.
Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol is also prohibited and illegal.
An institution obviously has to follow the law. These laws are in place for our own safety and I think that the majority of Springfield College students know and respect that. However, there is a rule that I have never understood: the “in the presence of alcohol” rule. What does that even mean? In the presence of… as in when I am sitting in a restaurant and everyone around me is drinking? As in when I’m at home and my mom is enjoying a glass of wine in my presence? This rule makes absolutely no sense, and it causes discrimination to occur within our campus.
A friend and senior captain of the men’s lacrosse team, Matt Dalton, has made the decision to not drink. He is now 21 years old, and still chooses not to partake in alcohol consumption.
“I just, for whatever reason, was not as tempted or experiencing the feeling of wanting to try it. From there, it just came to the point that I had learned to have fun without it and did not feel the need to start,” Dalton explained. “And that has continued all the way through until now, my senior year of college.”
Four years ago when we were freshmen, Dalton was always the designated driver for the team. He would go to their townhouse for parties and then made sure that everyone knew that they had a sober ride downtown or off campus. He was more than willing to make sure that his teammates got around safely. I send a deserving applause to both Dalton and the lacrosse team for being responsible. But for some reason, Springfield College does not see it that way. For simply being inside of the townhouses (which were not restricted to 21-year-olds at the time), Dalton would be written up for an alcohol violation- “in the presence of…” A student who was more responsible than most 18-year-olds was getting punished for being around alcohol, regardless of the fact that he never intended to drink at all.
“From my point of view, I believe that the ‘in the presence rule’ should have certain levels to it, regarding the consumption of alcohol as well. I have been in plenty of situations in which I am going out alongside everyone else or driving people safely to where they need to be, and staying there to enjoy my night as well. ‘In the presence of’ is tough to avoid no matter the situation because I am still out having my own good time, just without the consumption of alcohol,” Dalton said. “It is very difficult to go out in a college setting and not find oneself amidst alcohol, whether consuming it or not. Those who are not consuming it, however, are at the same risks to documentation and disciplinary action.”
The message that the school is sending is something that my parents have cringed at. Ultimately it encourages sports teams and groups of friends to discriminate against their fellow teammates and pals based on age. When the lacrosse team, or any other Springfield College team, club or intramural, has a team bonding exercise on Sunday where they watch the football game and enjoy a beverage, none of the underclassmen are allowed because it is against the rules to literally watch someone else drink a beer! How is that relevant to a student’s safety?
I understand completely that dealing with topics such as alcohol and substance abuse is extremely difficult. I respect that it is hard to find a happy medium; however, this is not the happy medium. Springfield College’s alcohol policies are unreasonable and inconsistent. Students want to see a change, and if no one is willing to make that change, then I think we deserve an explanation as to why these rules are in place.