Dean of Students at UMass Amherst Releases Figures on Alcohol Violations Under Stiffer Penalties

AMHERST, Mass. - Violators of the alcohol policy at the University of Massachusetts who received sanctions during the fall ’98 semester totaled 334. During the same period a year ago, the number was 705. The figures were released this week by Jo-Anne Vanin, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students.

Vanin said: "We are gratified that the numbers have been reduced, but it’s too early to see a trend. We need to look at this issue in terms of years, not semesters."

Vanin attributed the drop in numbers to the implementation of a "clear, consistent alcohol policy with a strong educational component supported by strict sanctions."

She said: "The numbers show we’ve caught the attention of students who are responsive to this kind of approach. But, we aren’t na?ve to the fact that problem drinkers will always find a way to drink."

Vanin also cautioned that the numbers reflect only sanctions initiated by the housing staff, not arrests by the Department of Public Safety, where, she said, numbers have stayed approximately the same.

The number of students sanctioned with mandatory attendance at an alcohol education workshop was 220. The workshop was initiated this year as part of the University’s new stricter, more consistent sanction policy. The workshop is mandatory for first offenders violating the policy against underage possession and/or consumption, or having an open container of alcohol in a public space.

The number of students sanctioned with mandatory participation in the University’s Residential Education Alcohol Program (REAP) went from 82 in the fall of 1997 to 37 in the fall of 1998. Vanin said some of the drop was due to the new policy instituted in the summer of 1998 mandating that first offenders attend an alcohol education workshop. Attendance at REAP is mandatory for the second violation of the policy against underage possession and/or consumption or having an open container of alcohol, or for the first violation of possessing a large volume of alcohol or dispensing alcohol to minors.

Vanin said education was the key in reducing alcohol-related behavior problems.

Vanin said all students were sent a letter last summer informing them of the new sanction policy, and the message was repeated in the New Students Program and in the training program for about 300 students who serve as residential assistants (RAs). All students also received a brochure outlining the new sanction policy and were again reminded of the policy in floor meetings and by articles in the student newspaper, the Daily Collegian.

Assistant Dean of Students Paul Vasconcellos said the reduced number of violations for having kegs or large amounts of alcohol is especially significant.

He said: "We are starting to change what the community looks like. While you will always have individual behavior you cannot change, we are pleased to see what appears to be a change of behavior for the better. It is encouraging, but we must continue to be consistent in the applications of our efforts."

He said the next step is to look at the effects of the policy and see if new initiatives are needed for the next academic year.

"We have melded sanctions and education in a way that seems to be working," he said. "Now, we need to see if we can improve for next year." One of the keys, he said, is making non-drinking behavior the acceptable norm.

Figures for other mandated sanctions are as follows.

The number of students relocated because of alcohol-related behavior was 27 in the fall of 1997 and 23 in the fall of 1998.

The number of students removed from campus housing for alcohol-related behavior was two in the fall of 1997 and two in the fall of 1998.

One student was placed on probation in the fall of 1997 and one was placed on probation in the fall of 1998 for alcohol-related behavior.

No students were suspended from the University for alcohol-related behavior in the fall of 1997 or the fall of 1998.