Special Issue: Effects of a dry campus

Categories:  News    Dry Campus, Wet Town
Wednesday, December 9th, 2015 at 12:40 PM
Special Issue: Effects of a dry campus by Anna Ashcraft
Photo | Paige Koenig

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania’s Policy “A001” is a short, yet impactful portion of campus life. The policy, updated in June of 2013 by soon to be departing university president Dr. Julie E. Wollman, prohibits the “service, possession and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages on university property,” designating Edinboro as what is more commonly referred to as a “dry campus.”

This designation, which Edinboro shares with the remainder of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education [PASSHE] schools, can be bypassed on certain occasions — such as wedding receptions and cocktail hours, like the one held in advance of the yearly athletics hall of fame banquet — if the event maintains several standards. But for the everyday student, the dry campus is very much, set in stone.

And according to Dr. Kahan Sablo, vice president for student affairs and an individual we spoke to regarding the designation, it’s been this way for at least his time at the university.

“I have been here 17 years, and in those 17 years and prior to that clearly it has been a dry campus,” he said. Looking back further, the previously mentioned Policy A001 was first dated Nov. 12, 1986, meaning some form of the policy is a minimum of 29 years old.

But more so than simply analyzing the history of one of Edinboro’s more critical behavioral policies, it’s important to explore the effectiveness of the campus alcohol regulation and the patterns it plays into.

A Dry Campus and its Effects

While research on the direct topic is difficult to come by, the presence of a dry campus was analyzed in 2001 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol. They found “students who attend schools that banned alcohol were 30 percent less likely to engage in binge drinking” and were more likely to “abstain from using alcohol than were students who attended schools where alcohol was not banned.”

In a 2006 survey of “9,073 undergraduates aged 18 and older,” results were less in favor of the dry campus concept, suggesting “the risk groups, such as Greeks or freshman, also are at risk on dry campuses and that commonly used prevention programs are needed on most dry campuses as well” [Note: A primary PASSHE prevention program will be discussed later on]. The study, titled “Alcohol-Related Problems on Dry College Campuses,” concluded that “patterns of heavy drinking among college students are social, demographic, and environmental; hence, campus alcohol policies present only one point of intervention as these other factors similarly impact both wet and dry campuses.”

Sablo sees the policy as a positive cultural impact, stating, “The large majority of our students who live on campus are not of legal drinking age; it provides them with an environment that’s more supporting of what society is going to expect of them until they hit the age of 21.”

Pat Hargest, owner of the Edinboro Hotel Bar, brought up a similar point when asked about the dry campus, stating, “I would assume that a good number of students who do reside on campus are underage, so the prohibition of alcohol for them would be the same no matter where they lived; although, I’m sure they would be less likely to be caught with alcohol off-campus since an RA or campus police would not be in their apartments.”

The Legal End

Edinboro University has strict laws for anyone who does not take the dry campus rule seriously. The first offense for alcohol use is two years disciplinary probation, an alcohol awareness program, a notification to parents, possible suspension and expulsion if already on disciplinary probation and possible substance abuse evaluation or counseling. Subsequent offenses face even stricter punishment.

And on that note, Edinboro has a number of crimes related to alcohol that happen each year. According to the Borough of Edinboro Police Department, in 2014 there were 18 DUIs, 13 underage drinking arrests and 24 public drunkenness violations in the town of Edinboro.

In 2015, from January to September, so far there have been 17 DUIs, 11 underage drinking arrests and 17 public drunkenness violations. These statistics are strictly alcohol related crimes, as they cannot “provide any information as to how much alcohol-influenced crimes there may have been, such as vandalism, disorderly conduct or assault that may have been influenced by alcohol.”

Edinboro University’s crime statistics showed that the most prevalent arrest on campus from 2012-2014 were liquor law arrests, with 41 on campus in 2014.

Beyond The Dry Campus

The notion of a dry campus may draw the most attention when talking about alcohol on campus, but there are other guidelines and policies both Edinboro and PASSHE schools look to follow when dealing with the substance.

The “International Center for Alcohol Policies” [ICAP], Blue Book policies identifies drinking patterns, targeted interventions and partnerships, while working towards a common goal. Sablo talked about how Edinboro is on par with other state and national institutions and the rules outlined in the Blue Book policies.

“The good news is that the drinking behavior by Edinboro students is almost exactly on par with other behavior in Pennsylvania and we work hard to keep track of that behavior. Both state and nationally, we are on par; every two to three years we do a survey, federal law says we have to. Our behavior seems to be exactly in line with what other college students in Pennsylvania are experiencing,” Sablo said.

Sablo also mentioned some behaviors that are found in colleges where drinking is allowed. “There were people excessively throwing up in bathrooms, getting drunk and destroying things, just behaviors that are not helpful to a residential environment.”

“Those are not good environments, particularly for freshman and sophomores to see that behavior, as well as endure that behavior. They can make a choice to go out and see other things, but when they come home the residence hall needs to be a place where they can have some peace and quiet,” Sablo said.

On a state level, PASSHE, recently receiving a grant from the department of education in the amount of nearly $500,000, set about the beginning implementation of BASICS, or the Brief Alcohol and Screening Intervention for College Students at “each of the 14 PASSHE campuses.” The program and related coalition for the “Prevention and Reduction of Underage and Binge Drinking” set out to “reduce underage alcohol use and binge drinking among first-year students by approximately seven percent” throughout 2010 and 2011. And while the coalition “did not find a reduction of ‘binge-drinking’” as they desired, it did represent a mass effort and did leave students, educators and officials with various findings.

Binge drinking was reported in 35 to 38 percent of PASSHE student responders, with binge drinking being five drinks at one time. But more so, the idea of drinking being part of a campus’ social life was solidified, as 85 to 90 percent of responders believed “the average student on campus uses alcohol once a week or more.” Meanwhile 86 percent saw “drinking as central in the social life of male students” and 79 percent saw the same in female students.

This centrality in social life seems to be the aspect a dry campus has yet to alter.

Anna Ashcraft is The Arts Editor for The Spectator and she can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com

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