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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Drinking culture crackdown, or just paranoia?

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On September 23rd at 9:30 pm, a Saturday night, the men’s club soccer team–a group of approximately twenty students–gathered on Bell Field for a ritual beer before the beginning of their first year’s social. AJ Van Zoeren, senior and social captain, said they were just opening the cans when they saw the flashlights of security officers coming down the hill.

“I’m like, ‘Alright, here we go, I’m going to have to deal with this,’” Van Zoeren said. He told the freshman that it would be fine, and that the officers would only want to know whether they were “smoking weed or something.”

“In my experience, that’s the only thing…they seem to care about on this campus.”

Instead, the officers instructed the students to pour out their alcohol onto the field. Because the field was the team’s first stop of their social, they had with them the entire night’s beverages.

“Five cases, 150 beers poured out on the sidelines. That couldn’t have been good for the grass. And I’m just sitting there like, I can’t believe this,” Van Zoeren said. “We actually hadn’t drank anything. We were all stone sober.”

“Are we still at Carleton? Because it felt like it was a little too much of a ball busting,” Van Zoeren said.

An email from the Associate Dean’s Office four days later informed the team members that because they were not caught consuming alcohol, their actions did not specifically violate the school’s Community Standards Policy. However, the email said, “the College has taken note of the incident and has documented your involvement.”

As the provider of alcohol to underage students, Van Zoeren was summoned individually to the Dean’s Office, at which point he felt he could no longer continue to speak of the incident.

Before the meeting, however, he said, “I assume it will just be touching base. Like, don’t do this again. And we’ll be like yeah, totally. And by don’t do this again, we definitely will not ever get caught doing it again.”

Carleton’s alcohol policy is not known for its strictness. Senior Eric Hazoury said he felt the administration is “still fairly liberal compared to our peer schools.”

“But I do have a sense that some of the changes that have started before we were freshman, even like, banning Sayles dances…things like that are geared towards having a stricter enforcement policy,” Hazoury said.

The $100,000 grant Carleton received to address underage drinking and marijuana use on campus, and the Carleton Coalition on Alcohol and Marijuana (CCAM) formed to implement the grant, have made some students particularly concerned.

Jake Woodward ‘18 reported that he talked with a few students who lied on the recent survey distributed by the CCAM. “They see that the administration is looking into drug and alcohol use at Carleton, and don’t want the administration to ‘crack down’ on them, so they lied about their use.”

But Patrick Gordon, Project Coordinator for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, commented in an October 2nd Carletonian article that CCAM is only in the data collection phase and is “trying to hold back on any super specific goals.”

The survey, which asked participants to comment generally upon student substance use and to rate the level of substance use at specific campus events, was only intended to gauge student perceptions about campus culture.

Joe Haase ‘16, student member of the Coalition, agreed that the survey’s function was purely informative. “I definitely think this impending doom that Carleton is going to become this really strict school is something that I don’t see happening,” he said. “This program is not just to become a safer community, but also to keep Carleton’s traditions.”

Hazoury disagreed. “I don’t really know what they were trying to prove with the survey. The questions I felt were kind of pointed,” he said. “Giving the respect to treat ourselves as adults and police ourselves is a good thing, and I think that is kind of starting to change. I don’t think we’ve seen the effects of it yet, but there are hints that there [is] more to come.”

The Strategic Prevention Framework Partnerships for Success (SPF PFS), the state-wide initiative administered by Minnesota’s Department of Human Services and the group that gave Carleton the grant, is aimed “at preventing underage alcohol use and young adult marijuana use among college students.”

“Some of the definitional wording is concerning, ‘prevention’ of underage drinking rather than managing it well,” Security Officer Randy Atchison, said of the grant. “If the goal of that effort and others people’s thought processes is a non- human utopian type of solution, then we’re in trouble.”

Atchison urged, however, that he did not feel this was the case, and if the CCAM is successful, “the college will have the magnificent history of examining the history [of substance use], and have had the opportunity to go to an extreme and didn’t.”

According to a September 2015 report conducted by independent research group Wilder Research, “the student population at Carleton is very engaged and motivated to make things happen when they are involved…but they do not respond well when they are ‘told’ what to do.” The report, which interviewed 16 Carleton staff and faculty and six community members, offered “suggested prevention strategies” for substance abuse, including, among others: engaging in more community-wide dialogues, providing more sub-free events, and strengthening consequences for alcohol and drug policy violation.

“While Carleton has policies addressing alcohol and drug use,” it reads, “the consequences may not be enforced or strong enough to prevent substance abuse.”

But Haase emphasized that the CCAM–which is composed of ten administrators and ten students from various backgrounds–“seems fair and very reasonable.”

“The administration realizes that if they want to change policy, they have to have the student body behind them, or else it’s just us versus them. And that’s not the relationship they want to get at all,” he said.

Because the grant is for four years, and the Coalition only meets once a month, “it’s a very slow process,” he added. There is no indication that any new policy or enforcement shifts are currently in the works.

As for the incident with the club soccer team, when asked why the alcohol was not merely confiscated, Randy Atchison replied, “Where do you put it? Who gets it? … Confiscation is an option… But if somebody is willing to help pour it out, it’s simpler.”

Our interview was interrupted when another security officer entered the room. “We’ve got to go to Evans,” the officer said to Atchison. “We got a call. Marijuana smokers.”


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