Friday, September 9, 2011

Student Alcohol Policy: Coda

In the last few days, I’ve been to a Student Government meeting and asked about the policy, been to a First Responders meeting and asked about the policy, and had a meeting with the Dean of Students to talk about the policy. So I think I’m on pretty firm ground here when I say that, contrary to what was reported by the Wooster Voice, it’s neither a big deal nor a big change.


First of all, the College’s alcohol policy remains the same as ever, which is to enforce state law. In practice, what typically happens is that upon a first alcohol violation, you go to the Wellness Center and have to talk to a counselor.

With regards to the Dean’s office, well… In the past, Security, Judicial Board, the Dean’s office and the Wellness Center all kept records, depending on which one a given offender came in contact with. This made it harder to detect people who seemed to be having a serious problem; it’s easier to see three violations in one place than it is to communicate between different offices and figure out that Student A has been in trouble three times. The emphasis is not on punishment, but on helping Student A; the worst punishment A will receive is talking to an alcohol counselor, which after a few massively drunken episodes, they probably need anyway.


-The College is obligated to enforce state law, and underage drinking is in fact illegal. I keep forgetting about that because it’s so widespread, but the fact is, Security enforces the law and the law says that drunk and disorderly conduct, or underage drinking, is illegal.

-You don’t actually have a right to privacy at a private school. When you step onto this campus, you forfeit your right to freedom of speech and privacy. There’s nothing illegal, in that case, about the Dean’s office having access to the fact that you came to the Wellness Center drunk the other day. We exercise free speech and have limited privacy because he doesn’t want to run the campus in a draconian manner, but there’s nothing unlawful about his ability to get that information. However, the information remains confidential to those outside his office.

-Students eschewing the Wellness Center’s care hasn’t been as much of a problem in the past as I thought it could be. The sober friends of a given drunkard tend to make the smart call, and the drunk friends get scared and take their drunker friends to the Center. This isn’t always the case, but it is very often the case.

-If you have a beer, fall down and bruise your arm, you don’t get a notification because that isn’t your chief complaint. In other words, if you haven’t broken the law and you come to the Center with alcohol in your system and another ailment, the Dean doesn’t get a notification.

-There’s no actual list that the Dean keeps. Most of the time, he doesn’t even see the first-time notifications. It’s the second- and third- time people that might have a problem that the notifications are designed for. Once again, the focus is on helping repeat offenders, not punishing them.

-Finally, the policy doesn’t extend to all your medical information. It’s exclusive to alcohol. Drug abuse, however, has to be reported to the City of Wooster.


There’s no actual change in how the College treats offenders, and there’s no change in which offices have access to what information. In addition, the Dean does not have access to your medical records via this system. He is only told when there’s a violation of law or policy, i.e. underage drinking, drunk & disorderly conduct, etc. If you don’t like that the Dean hears about your alcohol-related malfeasance, well, that’s the price of doing business when you go to a private school.

Please spread the above around as broadly as you can, and just as importantly, please spread the word that it is as safe and to your benefit to visit the Wellness Center as it has always been.

Many thanks,

Andy Tisdel
College of Wooster ‘12

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