Each year on college campuses alone there are 1,400 deaths,
500,000 injuries and 70,000 sexual assaults or rapes all associated
with alcohol use.

Laura Wong
Brian Tear of Wyandotte is read his rights by state police officers after being arrested for smoking marijuana on University property at the 1996 Hash Bash.

These statistics, as reported by the National Institute for
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at
“http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/facts/”>www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/facts/,
alone suggest that enforcement of existing alcohol laws is not only
a legal issue, but also a health and safety consideration.

Do Department of Public Safety officers want to spend a lot of
time issuing tickets for disorderly conduct or minor in possession
of alcohol? No, we don’t. Enforcing alcohol laws takes our
energies away from addressing other crimes and incidents. But we
care about you — your safety, your education and your
interactions with others.

Students at the University indeed are among the best and
brightest — and you routinely display it. Alcohol abuse is
not consistent with achieving success. Our lives are enriched by
the successful completion of our students’ educational goals,
and we are hopeful that our education, prevention and enforcement
actions across campus contribute to a greater likelihood of that
success.

President Ronald Reagan signed national legislation in 1984 that
designated the minimum legal drinking age as 21. This change helped
reduce alcohol-related traffic incidents. However, it didn’t
eradicate them. The NIAAA states 2.1 million students between the
ages of 18 and 24 drove under the influence of alcohol in 2002. Of
course, drunken driving impacts people of all ages. In the state of
Michigan, 442 people died in 2003 as a result of alcohol or
drug-related traffic accidents, according to the Michigan State
Police.

But drunken driving isn’t the only area in which
intoxicated people make an impact. On our campus, many intoxicated
people whose behavior has drawn the attention of DPS officers often
have been observed doing other illegal activities, such as
urinating in public or damaging property. Additionally, lawns and
buses often are damaged from vomit, potentially spreading germs to
unsuspecting users. People participating in these types of
behaviors are violating the rights of others within the University
community.

Even more alarming, every weekend during the academic year, we
transport at least one student to the emergency room because their
alcohol level is so high that they are in medical danger. At the
risk of sounding like a parent, which I am, the worst phone call a
DPS officer has to make is when we have to let a parent know his
child is in serious condition, or even a coma, in the hospital
because of an alcohol incident.

But enforcement of alcohol laws is not just done out of concern
for your well-being. Our police officers are obligated by law to
enforce alcohol laws. The Michigan Liquor Control Code of 1998 (Act
58) states it is the duty of law enforcement officers, including at
state universities, to “enforce the provisions of this
act.” Failure to perform the enforcement action could result
in penalties to the police officers. The act goes on to state that
“a minor shall not purchase or attempt to purchase, consume
or attempt to consume, or possess or attempt to possess alcoholic
liquor.”

Therefore, enforcement of existing alcohol laws is a MUST. It is
the law. And it is consistent with our department’s efforts
to keep our community safer, help those in danger and preclude
crime as much as possible.

The mission of DPS is to contribute to and promote a safe and
secure community while respecting the rights and dignity of all
persons utilizing the facilities and programs at the University. To
fulfill our mission, our officers must help everyone, including
those who are innocent and those who choose to participate in risky
behavior. Nonetheless, if you are among the few who are in
violation of the laws, you can expect to be treated fairly and
respectfully by our officers.

As part of an educational institution, it also is our
responsibility to educate members of our community, especially
those who are new to our state or city, of the expectations of our
state, community and campus. Our officers routinely meet with
community groups, student organizations and staff units to share
campus safety and legal information. Enforcing the prevailing laws,
regulations and ordinances is another way to educate our
community.

I hope we can all agree that the path to success involves living
and learning in a safe, productive environment surrounded by people
who care. I’d rather see you walk across the commencement
stage than in front of a judge. We want you to succeed!

 

Bess is the director of the University’s Department of
Public Safety.

 

View this feature as it appears in print:


“http://www.michigandaily.com/vnews/display.v/ART/415bf31deeacb”>September
30: Getting Along With The Law

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