Surviving in residence

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Many first-year students come to university with a newfound freedom, being away from home for the first time, which, according to David McMurray, vice president of student affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University, can inevitably lead to “some experimentation, naturally … at that stage of a person’s life.”

Ever since high schools cut grade 13, students have been coming to university younger, which creates issues regarding underage drinking and drug use while living in residence.

“Some students come with a background of experience in social, responsible drinking, and some students have never had a drink in their lives and have to deal with how to manage [these new situations],” explained McMurray.

However, the amount of incidents regarding underage drinking and drug use has not been on the rise. Per capita percentages show that the influx of younger students is why there are more incidents, not that they are necessarily acting out more than in past years.

“From a sheer numbers point of view, [situations regarding illegal misbehavior] is about the same [as previous years],” said Chris Dodd, WLU’s director of residence services.

“It’s hard to tell at this point because it depends on what we’ve documented.”

Not all incidents regarding underage drinking and drug use are reported. McMurray explained that what happens behind closed doors in the students’ private lives is a different situation.

Research done by members of the WLU faculty has also looked into the amount of underage drinking and drug use that goes on in residence.

The results have shown that “students think that [they] are drinking and using illegal drugs more so than they actually are — there’s no question that they are, but their perceptions are much higher than is reality,” explained McMurray.

In order to control students in residence they “sign a contract that governs behaviour as it pertains to such things as alcohol,” said Dodd.

If a student is caught challenging the rules, “Most … want to take responsibility for their actions once they realize … how they transgressed the rules … [but] there is always one or two [students] who don’t agree with our system,” explained Dodd.

“It’s all about making judgment,
responsibility and sometimes there is
a learning curve.”

—David McMurray, vice president of student affairs

When dealing with students, residence life does take into consideration reasons behind students acting out.

McMurray explained that there may be academic issues and family or financial problems which could lead a student to act out. As a result, rules and regulations are set in place not only to create a safe living environment, but also to help students.

“It’s all about making judgment, responsibility and sometimes there is a learning curve … we want students to be safe,” concluded McMurray.


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