Punishment without a crime?
Underage drinking in residence comes as a surprise to no one despite the fact that most students are aware that drinking alcohol is prohibited for students under the legal age in residence. The policies and penalties are supposed to be explained to students; however, there is still confusion around what the true penalties are when students are given alcohol violations. One first-year student at Wilfrid Laurier University, Chad, was given two alcohol violations despite the fact that he doesn’t drink and claims he was also told that he would need to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting if he received a third.
Chad, who asked that The Cord not publish his last name, was in a residence room with other people that were playing drinking games, and was consequently given an alcohol violation. He was not drinking alcohol, he was not holding alcohol, he was not participating in the game and he informed the don of all this. Chad reported to The Cord that the don said, “I was still in the room while the game was being played and there was nothing they [the don] could do about it.”
When asked if students are given the same penalties no matter their level of involvement with the infraction, Chris Dodd, the residence director, explained, “There is extenuating circumstances in every case, so each and every case is handled on its own merits and has nothing to do with the one previous or the one coming up.”
The Residence Handbook, which outlines all of the rules around living in residence, outlines the rules around drinking alcohol in residence in section 3.3, “Prohibited Practices with Alcohol.” The handbook states that, “Drinking games, including floor crawls, century clubs, beer pong, flip cup and the possession of paraphernalia used in unsafe drinking practices, i.e. “funnels” are prohibited in residence. The handbook does not outline whether only students participating in the games will be given ents in the vicinity will be given violations.
Chad was aware that he would be given a violation if caught in the same room as people playing drinking games, however. The don on his floor explained all of the policies, including those around alcohol, to Chad and the rest of his floor.
“The first day we got [into] res our whole floor had a meeting where our don went through the rules of everything, he told us what to expect, what happens, and all of that. So he introduced that to us,” Chad said, also adding that the policies were clear to him at that time.
He decided to go to these parties despite the potential consequences, saying, “I wanted to experience first year the most I can, and I’m not going to stay home and read while my friends are out having fun, so I just wanted to be part of it all.”
Based on what his don told him, Chad understood that after three alcohol infractions he would need to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous session. Chad recalled, “He said that after three [violations] we would have to go to an AA meeting.”
However, students are not actually required to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting if they have received three alcohol violations in residence. They are required to attend an alcohol awareness program run by Marilyn Nieboer, Laurier’s educational nurse.
Explaining what the program provides, Nieboer said, “We go through the biology of alcohol … how does alcohol affect our bodies?”
“We go into responsible drinking, how to drink slowly, and how food can slow the absorption of alcohol, knowing the signs of alcohol poisoning.”
Nieboer said the goal of the program is education.
Students like Chad, who do not drink, could still have to attend these sessions, but Nieboer said she believes, “Students who do not drink alcohol can still benefit from education … they might be the first person to be taking care of their friend who is intoxicated.”
When asked if students are required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Nieboer said, “I think for the most part they are quite aware that they are attending an education session.”
Dodd also explained, “They call it that, but that’s more of a joke than anything, it has nothing to do with Alcoholics Anonymous.”
Being told by his don that he would need to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting if he received three alcohol violations is not a joke to Chad however, who, like many other students, believed that he would actually need to attend an AA meeting. Chad told The Cord, “I haven’t gone to any [parties] since I got my second one … because I have to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting if I get another one.”
As a result of the violations he received, Chad’s social life has suffered. He has chosen not to participate in many of the social activities in which his friends participate, despite the fact that he doesn’t drink.
Chad said, “I choose not to go to many on res parties anymore … I’m limited in what I can do right now.”