RA alcohol policies cause over-reporting and mistrust with residents

Giving every single student in a cramped Thurston party an alcohol violation may seem crazy, but the new resident adviser agreement makes it a reality.

Officials overhauled the RA agreement last spring, requiring RAs to walk the halls to check for parties and misconduct. While these rounds are intended to make students feel more comfortable by replacing uniformed officers with peers, they also give RAs strict obligations to search for and report students who violate alcohol policies for a disciplinary infraction – an unreasonably harsh way to enforce underage drinking.

GW Police Department officers could use their judgement to decide how and if to discipline students. But RAs are required to search every room and discipline every student, which inherently over-monitors students. A semester after the new rules took effect, it is clear that RAs should also be able to use their judgment before reprimanding students for underage drinking – not every Thurston Hall party is worth involving officials.

Once RAs have entered the room, they are required to gather students together into a common space to record their names and information on their GW identification cards. While it was an unwritten rule that GWPD would often issue informal warnings or simply end a party, RAs are essentially required to initiate disciplinary proceedings against every student in the room, according to the guidebook. Punishment can result in an informal warning, but it can also result in a censure that is written in a student’s academic record.

Before responsibilities for alcohol violations were delegated to RAs, GWPD used relatively lax alcohol policies to decide whether to report students who were drinking underage, which officials said led to a 50 percent reduction in alcohol policy violations. But now, RAs are reprimanding students more than before. In my experience, some large parties are still broken up by GWPD. At a recent party, a friend of mine described how GWPD ushered everyone out of the room and into the hallway, then lined up a few of the most intoxicated students to administer breathalyzer tests. This targeted reporting, aimed at keeping students safe rather than citing as many students as possible, is much more effective than the blanket reporting required from RAs.

RAs are meant to be friendly faces and people who freshmen can come to for advice or conflict resolution. Community rounds were designed to make it easier for RAs to form these kinds of close relationships by giving them a chance to check in with students around the building. Forcing RAs to report and discipline their students is counter to this goal. RAs have no choice but to act as the law enforcement authority, and this kind of responsibility will inevitably strain the trust and relationships RAs should build.

Community rounds were designed to make students feel more comfortable and bring RAs closer to the students in their halls. Instead, they create an atmosphere of distrust and reintroduce a policy of over-reporting that is harsh and ineffective.

Joseph Andrews, a freshman majoring in political science, is an opinions writer.

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