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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

New social host ordinance cracks down on underaged partying

< years of issuing “noise violations” and fairly lax policies regarding underage drinking, Rice County has issued a new, stricter social ordinance that imposes more severe penalties on those who serve alcohol to underage drinkers – an ordinance that would apply to Carleton students as well, particularly those who live off-campus or in the townhouses.
While there has always been a penalty for serving minors, the new law expands this standard to encompass anyone who owns a residence where the alcohol is being served. Although hosting a party where minors were served would only be a misdemeanor, it could have a fine as high as $1000. Multiple offenses could lead to time for the hosts.

Cathy Carlson, Associate Dean of Students, explained that when the police are called to a party, usually on a noise complaint, they now have the right to charge the host as long as the host is present and aware of the party. “If someone brings a keg to your house, and you knew that keg was going to be there, and that it was being served to minors, you are the host,” she said. Although the Northfield police “won’t be driving around looking for it,” if they receive word that a party in town is occurring, they will have more incentive to hand out citations, she explained. These interactions will not be limited to off-campus housing; they can also be applied to the townhouses if the police receive complaints. Although many students are unaware of it, she notes, Carleton actually “is not protected from the police.”

Although police cannot enter a dorm without being accompanied by security, they have free range of campus, and are most definitely allowed to break up parties in the townhouses.

Although the law will undoubtedly make people more cautious about serving minors, Carlson also notes that she does not think it will cause tremendous change at Carleton. “ I think it will change a lot for Northfield,” she said, because “parents will be more aware” of what is going on. Greg Kneser, the Vice President and Dean of Students at St. Olaf College, agreed. “Students seem to be under the impression that this ordinance is directed at them,” he said. “In fact, I think that community concerns about students living off-campus in the past two years are significantly less.” The Social Host Law is mainly an effort to “curb teenage drinking and hold parents accountable.” He recalled that nearby communities have recently experienced some “very bad incidents” among high schoolers that prompted parental concern. Although the ordinance does note that many parties where minors are served are hosted by individuals around the age of 21, it focuses more on the consequences of parents who serve alcohol to other people’s children.

It is also important to note that the Social Host Ordinance complements actions that are currently being taken at Carleton. As Carlson explains, staff members at the College are already trying to create policies to reduce the amount of “high-risk drinking” on campus. “We’re trying to figure out if we need to do something different while still maintaining our fun traditions,” she said. The ordinance reinforces this attitude by further discouraging underage drinking off-campus. Kneser agrees. “There are some problems and we are addressing them, but they are nothing like they have been in past years. At St. Olaf, we credit this to a program we have been doing” where “there are significant incentives for folks on both sides to have good relationships with neighbors.”

The Social Host Ordinance officially came into effect this past Monday, May 9th. The Dean of Students sent an email to all students on campus detailing the new laws.

“Certainly it will affect life on campus for people at both schools,” Kneser said, but “I’m sure [Northfield’s] college students will respond in largely positive ways.”

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