Alcohol violations at GW rise, officials cite statute

A recent change in federal law and increasing student enrollment may have caused alcohol violations at GW to increase more than 30 percent last year, University Police Department Director Dolores Stafford said.

UPD reported about 600 violations of GW’s alcohol policy in 2000, compared to 465 violations in 1999.

Stafford said violations have increased in recent years because of a 1998 change in federal law that requires all participants in an incident to be documented separately.

“If 10 underage students were in a room drinking, prior to 1998, it would have counted as one incident,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Now, it counts as 10 referrals.”

GW reported 127 violations in 1997 and 153 in 1998, but the number rose to 465 in 1999. While there were 185 separate incidents that year, 465 people were involved.

In 2000, 218 incidents involving 599 students were reported, out of an undergraduate population of about 7,580.
GW instituted an alcohol education program in 1991. For minor first-time offenses, the University requires students to take an alcohol education session and pay a $25 fine. A more in-depth education program and a $50 fine is required for serious or second violations. For severe or third violations, Student Judicial Services requires a “Last Call” education program, issues a $100 fine and removes students from campus housing.

Georgetown University, with an undergraduate enrollment of 6,418 students, reported 380 alcohol violations in 2000. The university did not keep statistics before 2000, said Sgt. Gilbert Bussey of the
Georgetown University Department of Public Safety.

Georgetown has a multi-tiered alcohol education program similar to GW’s, meaning the type of violation determines the level of punishment. Students take a three-hour course after their first violation and a course through Alcoholics Anonymous after a second violation. Georgetown also explores the option of a psychiatric evaluation for repeat offenders.

Schools with harsher first-offense penalties reported fewer per-capita alcohol offenses.
Boston University, which has 15,470 undergraduate students, reported 576 individual alcohol referrals in 1999. Statistics for 2000 have not been compiled.

At Boston University, students are evaluated by Emergency Medical Technicians, fined $250, required to take an education course and placed on university probation for a first offense. Students can also lose their housing for breaking alcohol policies once.

Stafford said this year’s larger than expected incoming freshman class could cause another rise in alcohol violations. GW enrolled 2,550 freshmen this year, which is 450 more freshmen than last year and the University’s largest ever enrollment increase. In 1999, freshman enrollment increased 330 from the previous year.

“Statistically we would expect a moderate increase due to that factor alone,” she said.

GW takes steps to prevent the violations, including informing incoming freshmen on GW’s drug and alcohol policy.
“It’s discussed in (Colonial Inauguration) and in publications and then when they return in the fall,” said Brian Hamluk, director of the Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education. “And the message is out with the students who are taken out of their housing or who have been arrested (for alcohol violations).”

Hamluk said he considers GW’s program effective because there are few repeat offenders. Hamluk said he believes the program is fairly strict, and the educational aspect of the program gives students an opportunity to make “informed decisions.”

While there are similarities among alcohol programs at other universities, Hamluk said there is “nothing identically like” GW’s the drug and alcohol policy. Student volunteers lead the alcohol education sessions at GW, unlike many schools.

-Tim Donnelly contributed to this report.

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