Students’ party raises questions about underage drinking and college’s alcohol policy
By Adrienne Sakyi
When police busted a party on the island the first weekend of the school year, they arrested 15 Flagler students — the three residents for throwing the party and 12 underage students for possession of an alcoholic beverage.
Underage drinking has serious consequences at Flagler College because of the “no tolerance” policy on alcohol.
The St. Augustine Beach Police Department (SABPD) has an agreement with Flagler College to send notification to the college of any students’ arrest and police reports to the deans.
The arrests were the first off-campus alcohol-related misconduct of the semester.
“Pending the information, appropriate disciplinary action will take place,” Assistant Dean of Student Services Dean Dirk Hibler said.
According to Hibler, students who violate the alcohol policy, both on and off campus, are sent to the Student Judiciary Council (SJC) or either Hibler or Dean of Student Services Daniel Stewart.
Disciplinary actions from the deans or SJC for underage drinking range from probation to expulsion. Hibler explained the alcohol policy extends to off-campus because “students are part of the Flagler community both on and off campus.”
Flagler College students have different views on the off-campus drinking policy. Students like senior Sean Boshard disagree with the policy because it is so hard to carry out.
“I think it’s ridiculous and it isn’t enforced unless you get caught,” Boshard said.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, which keeps records on numerous college statistics, there were 47 instances of disciplinary actions for on-campus liquor law violations in 2004, while there were no liquor law violations off-campus.
Other students disagree with the policy because college students are independent adults.
“I think there has to be a separation where the school isn’t all-powerful,” senior Dana Dempsey said. “Students need to find the boundaries in society without administration holding their hand.”
But not all of the students are opposed to the policy.
“I understand why the policy is in place,” senior Matt Armstrong said. “The college has to maintain the integrity of the student body and I appreciate their concern.”
Regardless of mixed student opinion, the policy remains in effect.
“Whether we like it or not, we all knew the alcohol policy at Flagler before we came here,” junior Sharon Bell said. “It’s not going to change.”
Police enforce the laws on alcohol for students while off-campus.
According to Joe Sisti, assistant police chief of the SABPD, in order to arrest someone for underage drinking, “officers must prove that the underage persons were in possession of alcohol when the officer gets there or prior to their arrival.”
For those students who are over 21, attending and drinking at someone’s party will not get them arrested, but throwing a party and serving to underage drinkers will get them in trouble with the police.
“The police department has zero tolerance for underage drinking and house parties,” Sisti said.
Aside from parties, drinking at bars and restaurants while underage can also get you arrested with special units like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms who may be patrolling local establishments.
More Information: http://ope.ed.gov/SECURITY/search.asp