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On-campus drinking infractions dry up

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Ohio State has clear regulations against alcohol consumption within residence halls, but students are still drinking and getting in trouble, albeit not as much as years before.

According to Ohio State’s Annual Campus Security Report, there were 495 incidents of alcohol law violations in residence halls, 491 of those ending in judicial referrals, or write ups, and only four of those incidents leading to arrests in 2009. The arrests in residence halls and judicial referrals were lower in 2009 than both 2008 and 2007, respectively.

Billy Minor, a fourth-year in finance, is a second-year resident adviser in Bradley-Paterson, a residence hall that he said doesn’t seem to have as many alcohol violations as other residence halls.

“We set our residents to a high standard, and our hall directors set us to a high standard. So if you go to Stradley (Hall) or Steeb (Hall), where you have freshman dorms that are bigger and they’re just a little bit more geared toward freshman drinking, if you will, those buildings are probably more troublesome,” Minor said.

Hall directors for the Stradley and Steeb residence halls and the assistant director of housing administration were unable to comment.

Specifics about residence halls’ respective infractions are not available, said Paul Bellini, assistant director of residence life.

“We follow state and local laws regarding alcohol and we encourage students to conduct themselves legally and responsibly. Staff, including RAs, enforce the policies and promote responsible behavior,” said Cheryl Lyons, the director of residence life, in an e-mail.

In the case of a potential alcohol violation within his dorm, Minor said it is required that he “write a short report to the senior staff member, saying, ‘This is what I heard and saw,'” but an RA’s job is not to make assumptions. “I can’t validate that anybody was or wasn’t drinking. That isn’t my job to do.”

The security report provides responsible alcohol-drinking guidelines complete with a photograph of two armed police officers in camouflage looking into a crowd at Ohio Stadium with binoculars.

“We’re not police, and we don’t act like police … We all understand that underage drinking happens and that drinking happens on campus, but there are rules we have to enforce to make the building a healthy and safe place to live and be social,” Minor said. “We’re not trying to catch anyone.”

Minor said he rarely deals with more than three violations in a single night.

“You may run into an alcohol violation on a weekend night, and you may run into five,” Minor said. “I have never seen a night that wasn’t Halloween or Mirror Lake night where I’ve had more than two or three.”

Erik Stewart, a second-year in political science, was written up for an alcohol infraction in Paterson Hall, though he said he was not drinking.

“We had 13 people in the room and the RAs came and knocked on the door,” Stewart said. “They had heard all this music and all these glasses slamming against this little beer pong table we had set up in the middle of the room, and for some reason we thought we were going to get away with it.”

Minor said anyone 21 years of age and older can drink in his or her room as long as nobody underage is present, which would constitute an irresponsible drinking situation. Stewart said this is his current understanding of the rules as well, after his infraction.

“To know the rules and to understand the rules are two different things. I wasn’t drinking,” Stewart said. “I didn’t understand that by me just being there was against the rules as well.”

The Residence Hall Handbook says, “Residents 21 years of age may possess and consume legal beverages in private rooms or suites (with the door closed) when such possession and consumption is consistent with the Ohio Revised Code and the university Code of Student Conduct.”

Stewart said he was told to write an essay citing rules and regulations he was not already aware of from the housing handbook as his punishment. He said, as far as he knew, the others involved were subjected to a similar punishment.

“There’s no sense in University Housing trying to eliminate underage drinking, and I think they very much understand that,” Minor said. “I think the University Housing stance is to make sure if the residents choose to drink, they do it in a safe manner, and they know their limits and the dangers of alcohol.”

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