Either the residence halls are getting stricter or students are getting rowdier, statistics suggest.
About 57 percent more citations per resident were issued during the 2005-2006 school year for violations of the University’s Community Living Standards than four years earlier. Drug and alcohol-related incidents – which comprise more than half of all incidents – increased by about 40 percent per resident over the same time period.
Residents may be referred to the police in extreme cases, but most incidents are resolved through the University. After residence hall staff reviews the incident, it may be dismissed, sent to arbitration or settled by having the resident perform an activity, like making posters about the dangers of alcohol abuse or organizing a hall-wide event.
Preliminary statistics for the current academic year indicate that the upward trend will continue. According to University Housing statistics, there were 946 residents cited for incidents last semester – more than were reported in the entire 2001-2002 academic year. If this year’s rate continues, the number of incidents will have risen by about 27 percent per student, provided that the number of students living in dorms remained stable.
Although the campus-wide increase in incidents could indicate a change in the administration of the residence halls, housing officials said there has been no new effort to crack down on students in recent years.
The University doesn’t want to create the kind of environment where resident advisors and police officers spend all their time looking for violations, said Greg Merritt, the University’s director of residence education.
“Our intention is not to go door-to-door to sniff out alcohol,” he said.
Administrators said that although some students leave dorms for off-campus housing because of the strict rules, they aren’t worried that a perceived increase in enforcement will dissuade students from returning to live in the dorms.
“We certainly are aware that some students choose to leave on-campus housing to get out from rule enforcement,” Housing spokesman Alan Levy said. “We’re not aware that students are leaving housing because they feel like housing didn’t do a good enough job enforcing its rules.”
Engineering senior Tony Brieschke, an RA in Alice Lloyd Hall, said in an e-mail interview that there hasn’t been any pressure on RAs to crack down on students.
“I do not feel that there has been much of a difference in the way in which we are trained to deal with such situations, nor has there been a particular emphasis on being more strict,” said Brieschke, who also served as an RA in Alice Lloyd hall two years ago.
Brieschke said he has seen students violating the rules more frequently.
“It seems as though some feel that they can do whatever they want, which obviously leads to lessons being learned the hard way,” Brieschke said.
Some dorm dwellers said they were surprised to learn that the number of incidents had increased.
“It seems like I’m under less scrutiny now than a couple of years ago,” said Gideon D’Assandro, an LSA junior who lives in South Quad Residence Hall.
Ben Ruano, an LSA sophomore and chair of the Residence Hall Association’s Housing Student Conflict Resolution Affair Committee, said University Housing is discussing ways to rein in student behavior.
“It does seem that they’re trying to crack down,” Ruano said.
Housing administrators have discussed revising the student code of conduct – which all students must sign in order to live in the residence halls – so that it would ban the possession of empty alcohol containers in substance-free housing. Even students over the age of 21 would be forbidden from possessing alcohol bottles, cans and paraphernalia.
Members of RHA discussed the change and decided to oppose it because it restricts the creative expression of students living in the residence halls, Ruano said.
Some students use bottles to decorate their room, even making lamps or vases from them.
“I already gave them the opinion of RHA, but I don’t know if they’re going to take that into consideration,” he said.
Levy said University Housing decided not to implement the plan.
Administrators said much of the increase in alcohol-related incidents can be explained by recent changes in state law.
In 2004, Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed Public Act 63, which deemed the body a container for the purposes of minor-in-possession citations. Before the act went into effect, minors couldn’t receive a citation for alcohol possession unless they were discovered with alcohol.
Before the implementation of the “body is a container” clause, many alcohol-related incidents in the residence halls weren’t reported to the University, said Stacy Vander Velde, assistant director for student conduct and conflict resolution at Housing.
“Now we don’t have that option,” Vander Velde said. “That’s why there’s been this enormous volume of incidents.”
After the new law took effect on Sept. 1, 2004, the number of alcohol- and drug-related incidents at the University jumped. It increased by 8.9 percent per resident the year after the law went into effect.
The revised MIP law didn’t have the same effect on all state universities, though. There were less alcohol-related incidents at Michigan State University last year than the year before the law was changed, documents show.
The increase in alcohol-related incidents could have occurred regardless – alcohol and drug violations increased by 39.2 percent per resident in the two years before the law went into effect, indicating that the trend had already begun.
The increasing trend can’t be blamed entirely on binge-drinking students, though.
Although violations of the University’s drug and alcohol policy still comprise more than half of all incidents, other incidents – like violations of quiet hours, disorderly conduct and guest behavior – have increased nearly 80 percent over the last five years.
Levy said the increase in alcohol-related incidents has led to a corresponding rise in other incidents. For instance, many students cited for quiet hours violations are also cited for alcohol possession, he said.
“There’s likely to be some association with an increase in alcohol and an increase in the other categories,” Levy said.
A new method of compiling incidents could also have artificially inflated the statistics, administrators said.
In 2005, the University revised its methodology for counting incidents. Starting with last year’s data, the University began to organize incidents based on the location of the violation, rather than the residence of the students involved, Vander Velde said. Students not living in the residence halls and visitors from outside the University now appear in the data, while they were previously omitted.
Rowdy West quad
No residence hall has been hit harder than West Quad by the recent wave of incidents.
Preliminary documents show that incidents involving 201 students took place in West Quad last semester, while just 176 students were involved in West Quad incidents during the previous two years combined.
West Quad had the most incidents of any residence hall on campus last semester – even more than Markley and Bursley, which typically top the list.
Lanae Gill, Coordinator of Residence Education for West Quad, refused to comment.
Students, though, said stricter enforcement of rules by a new Department of Public Safety officer – Housing Security Officer Jason Green – might have helped cause the increase.
LSA sophomore Kevin Grinnell said his friend’s room was searched earlier this year because the officer walked by and smelled alcohol. Although the officer found no alcohol in the room, he told the student that he looked drunk because his eyes were bloodshot, Grinnell said.
Grinnell said it was probably the result of sleep deprivation.
“The kid had just been sitting there studying since 8 a.m.,” he said.
Declan Lugin, security captain for University Housing, said that there hasn’t been a policy shift towards tougher enforcement.
“While all of our officers operate under the same procedural guidelines, some may be more intrinsically vigilant than others,” Lugin said. “There is no truth to the notion that either DPS or Housing Security have become more strict.”