By Meredith Loomis Quinlan, Student Commission President
While I am unhappy about Residential Life’s decision to terminate Darrin Camilleri from the position of Resident Assistant, this letter comes from four years of frustration with K’s alcohol policy, not just this one incident. Darrin had three alcohol-related offenses in his termination letter. These offenses conflicted with the standards that Darrin had agreed to hold himself to as an RA. I do not think that ResLife was wrong in their decision, and it makes sense given their policy that this would be the course of action. My problem is with the policy and the roles of R
As at K.
Every year that I have been at K, I have interacted with students who want to change the alcohol policy—it’s an on-going issue for many students that think the policy is unfair. In my mind the alcohol policy is not the most important issue impacting our campus. I think it is petty compared to the racial discrimination experienced by students of color on a daily basis, the violence experienced by women in the basements of parties and behind closed dorm room doors, and the economic distress of taking on debt to pay off tuition. This is just the start of the list of issues I prioritize over the alcohol policy. However, unlike these other issues, which often seem nebulous and hard to change, the policy is a concrete document. The charges brought against a student in our conduct system are documented, the letters received by students have tangible consequences and all of these items provide distinct examples that can be debated and changed.
In my four years of working on drug and alcohol policy at this college, the response I have most often heard is, “Well, this is the law. It is illegal for people under the age of 21 to drink, and we must have policies that are consistent with the law.” Yes, I get that. I understand that challenging state and national law places the college in a vulnerable position. However, this puritanical law does not prevent students who are under the age of 21 from drinking. We all know this. The law does prevent us from having honest conversations about alcohol at K. It prevents us from talking about addiction; it prevents us from creating policies that are realistic and prioritize health and safety; and it prevents us from encouraging responsible drinking behavior. This law is harmful in that it is out of touch with the reality of young people in this state and country and it forces institutions like K College to take on an enforcer role that diverts resources from community building to punishment. What if Residential Life did not have to take the time to go over all of the cases involving underage drinking in the dorms? Imagine if RAs didn’t have to police their halls on the weekends and could focus their energy on creating fun places to live? Heck, if they were into drinking, they could even have some beers with residents at a party. They could interact with the partiers and non-partiers. They wouldn’t have residents avoiding eye contact at 11 p.m. on a Friday when that darn bottle-on-bottle clinking noise occurs in a backpack.
During the past fall quarter I was terrified at campus parties. I was sure someone was going to die from alcohol poisoning this year. First years, I’m sorry, but many of you didn’t know how to hold your liquor. I heard the stories about puking up bloody vomit, passing out in driveways and falling down basement stairs, just like everyone else. Yes, as students we need to be more responsible drinkers. I also think that the school needs to wake up and see that a prohibitive alcohol policy that pushes underage drinkers off campus into the neighborhood late at night, far away from RAs and security, is creating an unsafe and unhealthy environment for our students.