By ABBY BIESMAN and CATHERINE PALMER
News & Features Editors
Recent changes to the University’s policies on alcohol and parties aim to minimize binge drinking and increase the responsibility of individuals and organizations in situations involving alcohol.
In an email sent Sunday to the student body, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kevin G. Shollenberger and Dean of Student Life Terry Martinez explained the additions to the policy.
The policy now includes an amnesty provision, definitions for parties and houses and guidelines for party registration. The new policy will go into effect Jan. 4.
In the past year, the University has revised its policies with input from students, the Alcohol Strategy Working Group and the results of the 2014 Maryland College Alcohol Survey, which assessed alcohol use among students.
The amnesty provision, which is similar to that for sexual misconduct, is designed to encourage students to seek medical assistance when necessary.
“We were one of the few institutions among our peers that didn’t have an amnesty policy,” Martinez said. “What we know is that we have situations where students should be transported to the hospital or receive medical attention, and friends and peers aren’t calling for that medical attention because they’re afraid they’re going to get in trouble.”
Under certain conditions, the amnesty policy protects individuals from disciplinary action. Students may have to undergo education, treatment or other corrective measures, but for an initial incident, they would not automatically enter the disciplinary sanctions process. With repeated or more serious offenses, though, amnesty may not apply. The University is legally obligated to react to medical emergencies, and so amnesty may not be granted.
“We’ll deal with the medical condition first and that doesn’t mean that we’ll dismiss the behavior, but that we’ll have a conversation,” Martinez said. “I’d rather that be an educational conversation and an opportunity for corrective behavior than to automatically go into a disciplinary process with the student.”
A violation of University policy is considered valid for amnesty if the violation occurred during or near the time medical attention is sought, the report of the violation and need for help was made “in good faith” and the violation was not one that would have reasonably put the health or safety of another individual in danger.
Amnesty does not apply to other offenses that were taking place at the time, such as violations of the University Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures. While a student may have amnesty, the organization hosting the party may not.
“[The policy] is not to say that if there’s a party and someone calls for a medical condition and we find out that there are other violations going on in play, that we dismiss those. Again, we want to just make sure that students are safe,” Martinez said.
The policy clarifies the definitions for what the University considers a “house” and a “party,” following confusion among students surrounding which parties need to be registered and what defines a group house.
A “house” is now defined as an off-campus residence where four or more students in the same recognized student group or organization live.
“Some of the original recommendations for students [were] that this would apply to any property where there [are] Hopkins students because it felt like it shouldn’t only apply to fraternities and sororities,” Shollenberger said.
A “party” is defined as a gathering of 25 or more people in a house where there is alcohol served, provided or consumed.
All parties must have points of entry and exit. There may be many points of exit, but there can be only one entrance. There must be at least one Sober Party Monitor or Third Party Vendor at the entrance to the house.
All parties must have at least two Sober Party Monitors, and then an additional monitor for every 25 people at the party. The monitors will wear neon shirts provided by the University “or another University-approved method of identification.” Sober Party Monitors must also have completed training provided by the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW) in the past year.
The Sober Party Monitor requirement was instituted as an interim policy last year for fraternities, but it now applies to all “parties.”
The policy describes the types of alcohol allowed.
“Consistent with current Homewood Student Life policies, only beer and/or wine may be served at Parties. In particular, no ‘hard alcohol’ (i.e. alcohol that is 30 proof or higher) may be provided or served at Parties,” the policy states.
According to Martinez, this provision was clarified in the update, though it is already current University policy.
“Students weren’t aware of it, and we weren’t enforcing it, so what this allowed us to do was to highlight that,” Martinez said.
Houses require annual checks from Campus Safety and Security. If more than 12 months have passed since the last check, houses may not hold parties. Additionally, parties must be registered 24 hours in advance.
Open parties are not permitted under the new policy, and students must have a guest list of attendees that can be given to the University upon request.
“We saw that parties were open parties — just open on Facebook — and anybody could come to those parties. And we also noticed that those were the parties that were problematic for our students to monitor and regulate. We know that students can monitor and regulate their peers better than folks they don’t know,” Martinez said. “That policy is also very much in alignment with fraternities’ national expectations of parties — that there shouldn’t be open parties and that there needs to be a guest list.”
Per the policy, attendees must be 18 or older or have a valid college identification card if they are under 18.
The updated policy also clarifies sanctions and corrective actions for students.
Certain student groups, including the Interfraternity Council (IFC), were consulted as the University updated the policies. IFC President senior Daulton Newman discussed the drinking culture at Hopkins and how to solve problems associated with alcohol consumption and unsafe partying.
“This policy is hopefully the first step in a major culture change on our campus. For several speculated reasons, Hopkins students have a fascination with alcohol,” Newman wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
“Whether it’s the added stress from the rigor of our curriculum, or inexperience with alcohol upon arrival to campus, or the taboo that comes along with the new emphasis on rules regarding alcohol on our campus, or a summation of all these and other factors, Hopkins students drink more than the average student. That is the underlying cause of the problems that have surfaced in recent years.”
Newman emphasized that he believes keeping track of alcohol consumption throughout a night of partying is the best way to prevent dangerous situations from occurring.
“What a student drinks before attending a party hosted by any group is out of that group’s control,” he wrote. “I would say the majority of alcohol consumed by students actually happens in that pregame, so a lot of the problems can be solved by proper spacing of drinks and by student groups being more vigilant about who they let into their events.”
Newman also wrote that amnesty is a positive addition to the University’s policy because it protects organizations and individual students from underserved consequences, but the protection is not unlimited.
“The amnesty policy is a great thing. It protects chapters from punishment as long as they do the right thing and call for an ambulance or HERU if it’s needed. However, after repeat calls from help from the same sponsoring organization, the amnesty policy will stop protecting you, so that should be looked at,” Newman wrote. “Essentially, after a few transports that may potentially be the difference in life and death, the amnesty policy will no longer protect you for doing the right thing.”
Martinez and Shollenberger anticipate that students will adjust easily to the changes in policy since many of them were implemented as interim provisions following issues with campus parties last year.