by Jennifer Parsons
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Due to the nature of this story and the consequences that could follow, names and faces were not disclosed, although it is an account of real situations and students at the University of La Verne.
“We wouldn’t have integrity if we didn’t respond [to names and faces]. We wouldn’t be doing our job,” said Derek Vergara, director of the Office of Housing and Residential Life.
My photographer and I had just walked out of the ground floor of Miller Hall, heading toward Brandt Hall on assignment. Rather than using hypothetical situations of drug and alcohol use in the dorms, I wanted real accounts. I could have also used recollections of events, but for the sake of credibility and reality, students need the here and now of drug use and drinking in dorms.
And so began the hunt for the not-so-dry students at the University of La Verne one Tuesday night, approximately 9 p.m.
I had not gone far before a student walking across campus yelled to my photographer, “Woolsey!” This student had come from a party in the Oaks and was carrying an uncovered, completely exposed Bud Light.
After explaining the nature of the story, the student was more than willing to participate in an informal interview. Not realizing consequences that could possibly follow, the student was even willing to allow his name and face in print.
As a 23-year-old on-campus senior, the student admits to drinking often, particularly in Brandt Hall and has never been caught. He said, “I believe that [ULV being a dry campus] is unfair, because I have friends that go to other schools that are allowed to drink on campus.
“It makes them [students] want to do it even more because when people don’t get what they want, they are going to do whatever it takes to get it.”
It is still no shock to ULV that students will drink and do drugs. As some say, “Rules are meant to be broken,” but when they are and the right person finds out, behavior referrals and disciplinary action follows.
“Where there is a will, there is a way. We are not blind enough to think that no one drinks,” said Julie Thurman, programs coordinator of housing.
I had reached Brandt Hall and began to knock on each door, one-by-one. The majority of the residents were uncomfortable at the sight of a reporter and photographer and gave little or no comment, denying the use of drugs and alcohol in the dorms, even though many walls and doors were decorated in alcohol or drug-related posters.
Many residents would point to each other’s doors claiming that alcohol or drug use is redundant in those rooms. I eventually realized that if I am going to get the truth out of some people, I need to take a different approach.
Instead of announcing right off the bat that I was a reporter for the Campus Times, the door opened and my photographer said, “Hey, do you have any bud [marijuana]?”
The resident’s cautious reply was, “No, why, can you smell it out there?” Question answered.
After many slammed doors and statements of denial, a resident admitted to drinking in the dorms and invited me in to see the case of Bud Lights hidden in a desk drawer.
In another room in Brandt Hall I ran into three other students, one a resident of Stu-Han. Two of them were drinking beer, one said he was still “high” from smoking marijuana a few hours previously and said another had passed out after “smoking out.”
Getting the alcohol into the dorms is not a problem for the Stu-Han resident. She told me that she carries it in a backpack.
Recalling an incident from the previous year she said, “I was caught by an R.A. [resident assistant], but nothing happened. He said that the person in the room was going to take full responsibility. We were doing drugs and drinking. There were about 10 people in the room. Nothing serious ever happened.” Because no action was ever taken, she does not know the consequences one faces when caught drinking or doing drugs in the dorms.
“I smoke marijuana in the dorms. I cover the vents and the doorway with a towel, and smoke it out the window.”
The other student, who is the resident of the room, showed me a large quantity of marijuana in a plastic baggie, a bong that he and his friends smoke it out of and a utensil used to measure quantities of marijuana. He also showed me a marijuana plant that he is “germinating” in his room.
Their refrigerator was full of beer and he admitted to having also done “shrooms” — psychedelic mushrooms — in the dorms.
“I occasionally drink on campus. I do drugs about seven times a week in the dorms, but I’ve never gotten caught [doing drugs].”
Although he said he has gotten caught drinking in his room. He explained his consequences.
“I had to write a paper. I had to get three sources from three different colleges and find out about their drinking policy on campus and if they were a dry campus or not. I had to write a two page essay and meet with Chris Freeman [area coordinator of housing].
These sanctions can be anywhere from researching and writing an essay on binge drinking to attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings (A.A.) to even revoking the privilege to live on campus.
“Every year, I’d say approximately one person has the privilege of living on campus revoked. It is due to many things, noise, vandalism, harassment, but alcohol or drugs is usually the last straw,” said Thurman.
Said Freeman, “If it is just blatant rebellion, the sanctions are harsher, but if the student was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, it is usually a lesser policy.
“The sanctions are meant to simulate thoughts. We want to offer assistance and want to make sure everyone is OK. It is hard to get across our care and concern.”
If the student feels that his sanction is inappropriate or unfair, within five days of receiving the referral, he can appeal it.
The appeal is sent to Vergara, who reviews the case and steps taken to reach the sanction. From there, depending on if the case is more severe, it can be reviewed by the Judicial Board, which is made up of Ruby Montaño-Cordova, associate dean of student affairs, faculty members and a representative from the Associated Student Federation (ASF) Forum.
Continuing his story of getting caught, he said, “I didn’t do the first paper and I got another one. If I didn’t do it I would be terminated from the dorms. It stopped me from drinking in the dorms, but I still do drugs.”
This resident holds the general student consensus that being a dry campus “sucks.”
“It encourages drinking, because people want to rebel.”
R.A.s do not catch this student because according to him he keeps his “mouth shut and blows out the window.”
“I think that there are more drugs [than alcohol, in Brandt],” he said.
If an R.A. discovers residents drinking or doing drugs, it is his job to report it by writing a behavioral referral, which will be sent to and notify Freeman of the incident.
Thurman said, “Noise violations, guests or roommate complaints are usually gateway violations to alcohol and drugs.”
If the R.A. feels that the situation is too big to deal with alone, he can involve other R.A.s, Campus Safety, Office of Housing and Residential Life staff members, or for more severe instances, the La Verne Police Department.
If an R.A. finds drug paraphernalia in a resident’s room and suspects drug use, Campus Safety can be notified to come and perform testing to determine if drug residue is present.
“I trust that the R.A.s write it [alcohol or drug consumption] up. I don’t expect them to be Mr. and Mrs. Sherlock Holmes. We try to work on personal relationships so that the residents feel comfortable to talk with them,” said Freeman.
“We let the residents know the policy and if students choose to violate the policy I meet with them, we talk and I give appropriate sanctions. If people choose to challenge the system, there is obviously going to be consequences,” said Freeman.
By the time I left this room it was 11:30 p.m. and I had seen enough of Brandt Hall for the night. I made my way over to the Oaks where I found a huge party. There were at least 12 people crammed into one room with numerous bottles of alcohol, varying from beer to Boone’s Farm Wine to hard liquor.
I felt kind of like a party pooper because the minute cameras and notepads were seen, some scurried for the door, while others became angry and demanded that we put them away. After many explanations of what I was doing, they relented and allowed us to observe.
A 23-year-old Oaks resident described an incident when he got caught with alcohol that he was not even drinking, because he was in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
“I was in a room with a few guys who were rolling a joint and an R.A. knocked on the door, but we ignored it. Later, the R.A. saw a bottle sitting out and I got nailed. They wrote me up,” the man said.
He then explained the consequences. “I had to talk to Chris Freeman. It was like, ‘Why did you do it? How can we resurrect it?’ He doesn’t want to punish you, but he wants to fix the problem.”
One freshman explained how she sometimes drinks in the bathroom in Stu-Han.
Like many others, she did not agree with ULV being a dry campus. She said, “It is ignoring the issue, you know everyone is going to drink, or a lot of people. I’ve never been that careful, even if I get caught I don’t really think that consequences will be that bad, although I have no idea what they are.”
Several students do not know the consequences or procedure that takes place if they are caught with alcohol or drugs in the residence halls, and others that do, claim that nothing serious happens when they are caught.
“Students don’t really tell peers what happens when they are caught. They may be on probation, but from my experience students don’t tell,” said Thurman.
In any event, whether students claim to know the consequences, alcohol and drug consumption does not go unnoticed by ULV.
“Each case is individual. We look at the attitude of the person,” said Thurman.
“The sanctions for drinking in the dorms depends on the situation. It depends on if the students is compliant and the severity of the violation,” said Freeman.
Back at the party, a Brandt resident participating in the festivities, said, “I drink and smoke weed in the dorms every chance I get. I’ve never gotten caught. I have walked in with alcohol completely uncovered.”
He felt that “a dry campus deters people that don’t want to get caught drinking, but people like me that don’t really care if they get caught, it doesn’t.”
And even if they do get caught, some students say it is not harsh. “I got caught [with an opened bottle] and nothing happened. I just got a warning and if I do it again and get caught I will be on probation.
“The kids [at ULV] don’t get freedom to do what we want. If the kids weren’t being responsible in using alcohol, then it should be a dry campus, but the kids have never had a chance for it to be a wet campus.”
He does not feel that a dry campus deters students from drinking. “The only thing it does is it makes people cover it up more.”
“R.A.s are totally ignorant. They maybe somewhat know, but they don’t want to intrude. They will bust you if they see you, but they don’t want to have to go out of their way to do it.”
I got a little claustrophobic being in a dorm room crammed with tons of drunks and loud music, so I slithered down the hall, where I ran into an open room.
Two students were hanging out listening to the radio, and although they were not drinking, they admitted to drinking in the dorms. I asked one of them, an international student from Japan, how she felt attending a dry school.
“We can do anything, everyone can buy alcohol drinks [in Japan]. We don’t have to carry I.D. I feel bad because I’m 22 years old and in Japan I did what I can’t do here, but I’m getting used to it.”
Although it was an interesting night, I was exhausted and ventured back to my room in Stu-Han. Upon returning I ran into an inebriated freshman roaming the halls. She smiled and giggled and my photographer stopped to chat with her. I got to my room, climbed into bed and thought, “Just how many rooms are dry tonight on this very ‘wet’ campus?”
Dry campus issues still debated at ULV
Whether ULV should be a wet or dry campus has been an ongoing debate for years, mainly between administration and students.
Originally ULV was a dry campus because of its affiliation to the Church of the Brethren. Their stance was against the use of alcohol and drugs and out of tradition, ULV has continued to be a dry campus.
“There are pros and cons to both. La Verne being a dry campus is positive because I’ve seen college campuses that are wet wanting to be dry because of violence and destruction, which is a lot of the times related to alcohol. We are ahead of our time, it is a good decision and we deal with it as we can,” said Derek Vergara, director of housing.
In “The Guide to Residential Life” handbook, it is stated that “the University prohibits the possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages and full or empty alcoholic beverage containers (even as mementos or decorations) anywhere in or around the Residence Halls, as well as on the University campus.”
It is also stated that the “use, possession, distribution, or sale of illegal drugs and marijuana is not permitted on campus,” which is a given because federal laws prohibit such.
Said Julie Thurman, program coordinator, “Many students go off campus to drink. I worked at a wet campus and there was a dry residence hall, and the line to live in that hall was out the door. It is a safe haven. In a dry hall, residents can study productively and be social. I think the quality of life for students is better [at ULV] than other institutes.”
Many of ULV’s sister colleges, also Church of the Brethren affiliated, are dry, although, Juniata College, in Pennsylvania, is not. Students who are older than 21 are permitted to consume alcohol in their dorm rooms.
According to President Stephen Morgan, other issues are invested. “In residence halls more than half of the residents are under age. So, if we were a wet campus, do we card? Being a wet campus brings on many second tasks that adds cost to students and to the University. There is also the issue of liability. If a student drinks on campus and then gets in a car, the University is responsible.”
Recently, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education unanimously voted to ban alcohol on all 29 public campuses in the state.
The institutions can still choose to exempt campus pubs and some parties. The alcohol ban must be added to the campus codes of conduct by Dec. 15.
This decision followed two student alcohol-related deaths at Massachusetts colleges this fall. One died of alcohol poisoning after a fraternity party and the other died after falling through a greenhouse roof with his blood alcohol level above the legal limit.
Dr. Morgan said that “when drinking is allowed in residence halls, the damage rate rises considerably, more disagreements occur and more discipline problems occur.”
“In recent years we have looked at other college campuses which have lead us to believe that we have the appropriate policy having a dry campus,” said Dr. Morgan.
According to the board’s action, acquired through the internet, students who violate this policy “shall be subject to dismissal from the institution.”
Thomas D. Aceto, president of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, praised the board for taking a stand, although he predicts little change on his campus, because they “are already practicing these principles.”
Many students said the board’s action will be an empty gesture, and that “students will simply move their drinking off campus, if necessary.”
Thurman and the program assistants (P.A.s) work together in planning programs that will provide educational awareness to many pressing issues including alcohol and drug use. Already this year, a program was held in the Oaks D-Bottom presenting drinks and drinking habits with real life stories from a panel of speakers. They put on many other programs that are fun and alcohol-free, including an upcoming “mocktail” party.
“Our approach to programming is fun and educational. We want to make it so that people can see alternative methods to having fun, that it doesn’t always have to involve alcohol. Ultimately it is the students’ choice, but we hope that in doing it they are responsible.”
“We hit topics that seem to be concerns. I hear of issues and then a program is formed, and we present it in the hall that needs it the most. We want to combat the problems for the other side. It should be proactive, educational,” said Thurman.
“Ultimately we want to educate. We know, nor do we deny drinking. Our first and foremost goal is to educate residents. That’s why we have P.A.s and R.A.s,” said Vergara.
The only other thing that “could be or should be done [to prevent drinking on the ULV campus], although I don’t advocate it, is regular room searches. I don’t advocate barging into rooms unless there is a reason to believe the resident is doing something against our policy,” said Dr. Morgan.
Vergara, who has also worked on a wet campus, both at UC Irvine and UC Riverside, says that the difference between a dry and wet campus is the attitude, which is “We all drink, we all can.”
“The bottom line of our philosophy is that we want this to be a place where everyone can be comfortable and safe living. There are so many benefits to living on campus and we want to provide the opportunity to live close to school and make the friendships,” said Freeman.