UMD to review student’s off-campus violations

MN Daily: By Robert Downs 06/02/2009

The Twin Cities will not be adopting the policy.
For students at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, off-campus parties will no longer offer autonomy from school sanctions — a shift from the behavioral independence college students often desire.

Starting this fall, a new protocol approved May 15 will empower Minnesota-Duluth police to conduct weekly searches through police reports to indentify off-campus alcohol violations from UMD students ages 18 to 24, Minnesota-Duluth police director Anne Peterson said.

A chemical health educator will review students’ violation records, and students with multiple violations — on and off campus — will pay $150 for a chemical dependency assessment if deemed necessary.

Depending on the results of the assessment, students may have to pay for mandatory alcohol counseling, which may be covered by insurance. The school may contact the student’s parents as well, UMD chemical health educator Lauretta Perry said.

Peterson said 14 students, 10 from UMD, were hospitalized due to alcohol related illnesses in Duluth during the 2008-09 academic year. Most of these students were underage, she said.

The protocol is meant to alert the University to students that may have dependency issues, Perry said.

“It’s not about going on a witch hunt for students that have alcohol related violations,” Perry said. “It’s about looking for students that may have a problem.”

Perry, a member of the UMD’s Chemical Health Advisory Committee, which constructed the policy, said the University is not trying to be a “Big Brother.”

“Our goal is not to eliminate student drinking,” Perry said. “[It is] is for students to be more aware of their actions — and each other’s.”

Complaints of student behavior from the Duluth community drove Minnesota-Duluth chancellor Kathryn Martin to commission the Chemical Health Advisory Committee to search for the best off-campus alcohol practices across the country, Perry said.

The eight-month project included two representatives from the Student Association and several Duluth police officers, Perry said.

Perry said the committee took chunks of alcohol policies from schools around the country and drafted the protocol, which Martin, Minnesota-Duluth’s legal counsel and the Student Association approved. However, approval from the student association was not necessary in enacting the policy.

Parties can be a problem for neighborhoods near campus, but more and more leases are including clauses against loud parties, according to Vladimir Skirda, a real estate agent for Messina & Associates, Inc. , which manages around 25 off-campus student houses.

He said that small parties are acceptable at his company’s properties, but they have a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol if police get involved.

“They are subject to eviction at that point,” Skirda said. “In our lease it’s purposely said that there should be no [large] parties.”

But some students said the University is trying to act like parents, UMD student Charlie Burgin said.

“It’s like getting punished twice,” Burgin said. “It’s not really their place if we’re off campus

‘Philosophical Differences’

Minnesota-Duluth’s protocol is one of several substance policies the University has experimented with in the past few years — policies the Twin Cities campus rejected.

“There are some philosophical differences between the two campuses,” University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said .

The Twin Cities campus already imposes disciplinary action for off-campus citations, but does not actively search for them.

“Nobody has the time,” Boynton Health Service spokesman Dave Golden said. “I don’t think that’s ever been discussed.”

The student conduct code was expanded after the 2002 Hockey Riots to allow the University to punish students violating the student conduct code off-campus, Miner said. The revised code was used to determine punishment for students involved in the Spring Jam Riot in Dinkytown.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Reinhart reviews incident reports sent by Minneapolis and University of Minnesota police to decide whether to refer students to the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity , which can impose sanctions against the students.

Sanctions range from a warning to suspensions, probation, free chemical health assessments or community service, Assistant Director of the Office of Student Affairs and Academic Integrity Amy Barsness said .

The University of Minnesota-Duluth enacted a campus-wide smoking ban during the 2008-09 academic year and approved a new policy last year that gives students who report alcohol-related medical problems to police — such as alcohol overdose — amnesty from punishment.

The University of Minnesota- Twin Cities considered enacting similar medical amnesty and smoking ban policies, but decided against them, Golden said.

“The University takes into account the successes or failures [of policies from] other campuses,” Golden said. “We’re always watching how policies turn out.”

About 50 students received medical treatment for alcohol related illnesses last academic year, he said.

“I think the vast majority of students make good decisions while drinking,” Golden said. “Most students don’t want to get sick, most students don’t want to get in a fight, or be assaulted or assault somebody else.”

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