By Callan Sheridan and Bridget Whitfield
Susan* hears a distant knock on the apartment door from where she was standing in the kitchen. It means nothing to her, as she reaches for a snack in her friend’s kitchen. Suddenly, liquor bottles are being shoved into cupboards and beer cans into the garbage. She hears the words, “alright, everybody, i.d.’s out,” and knows the game is up.
Saint Peter’s University’s Department of Campus Safety recently released its annual Security and Fire Safety Report, in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. It showed that drug and liquor law violations on campus have been on the rise since 2012. However, Director of Campus Safety Scott Torre and students here on campus think there may be more to those numbers.
In its report, commonly known as the Clery Act, Campus Safety reported that Saint Peter’s had 49 referrals for liquor law violations in 2014. That’s an increase from the 45 reported in 2013, and almost double the 25 violations from 2012. There were also 28 drug violation referrals in 2014, which is an increase from 2013’s 21 reported violations.
“I feel like almost everyone gets caught at least once throughout their college career,” says Susan. “It’d be really hard not to, because you can’t control other people.”
Despite the parties that may crop up, Torre, and several students, would disagree that Saint Peter’s students have a problem with alcohol or drugs.
“I’m very impressed with the caliber of our students here,” says Torre. “I don’t think [the stats] are outrageous.”
Torre attributes many of the violations to freshmen students, as alcohol is not permitted in Whelan or Millennium, both freshmen dorms.
“I would say there’s more alcohol offenses with the underclassmen. Just because of the age issue. You get the 18 or 19-year-old coming into Whelan Hall with a big black bag, it’s not too hard to figure out what’s in that. On [east campus], we know there’s no alcohol [allowed], so naturally you’re going to get stopped and they’re going to confiscate your alcohol.”
He also sees the increase as slight, and not telling of a greater trend.
“I don’t think [it’s] a significant increase,” Torre comments. “I think you’ll find those stats are fairly consistent. It’s going to jump up from year to year, and that’s all dependent on what the students are doing. If you have a freshman class that likes to drink, in Whelan and Millennium, those stats are going to go up. They’re not going go up on [the west] side of campus because that is upperclassmen.”
Saint Peter’s University senior Felix Figueroa agrees that in comparison to many other colleges, Saint Peter’s is doing pretty well.
“I do feel our school has less problems compared to others,” Figueroa says. “The evidence is in social media. Schools like West Virginia, St. John’s, Montclair, or even Rutgers deal with a lot more issues than SPU.”
Resident Assistant Samrat Shiwakoti has a first hand look at residence and disciplinary life at Saint Peter’s, declaring the University wasn’t too bad.
“To be honest, I don’t think [partying and drinking] is a problem here,” said Shiwakoti. “Compared to other schools, I think we’re actually pretty good.”
The proof is in the numbers.
According to The Clery Center for Security on Campus, the Clery Act requires all colleges and universities who receive federal funding to share information about crime on campus and their efforts to improve campus safety. This makes it easy to compare different schools’ results with those of Saint Peter’s.
The University of Scranton, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, is a Jesuit university with 3,910 undergraduates. In 2014, the school reported seven arrests for liquor law violations (of which Saint Peter’s had none), and 188 referrals for disciplinary action. For drug law violations, the school reported one arrest, and 64 referrals.
Quinnipiac University, in Hamden, Connecticut has 6,703 undergraduate students. In its Clery Act report for 2014, there were 772 on-campus referrals for liquor law violations. No arrests were reported. For drug violations, however, 160 referrals were reported, along with seven arrests.
At Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus, another Jesuit institution, there are 6,971 undergraduates. Here, 571 disciplinary referrals were reported for liquor law violations in 2014. Sixty-two referrals were made for drug law violations. There were no arrests reported for either violation.
Compared to these numbers, Torre is right in saying Saint Peter’s students have a better reputation than other schools’.
Then again, maybe they just get caught less.
Shiwakoti says the most common reason he gets called to check on apartments or dorms is a noise complaint. When that results in him seeing drugs, alcohol, or paraphernalia, Campus Safety gets involved.
“We always call Campus Safety when there’s drugs or alcohol involved,” says Shiwakoti. “But we usually don’t go inside [the room] unless there’s probable cause.”
At that point, Campus Safety comes.
“We take the i.d.’s, we take anything that was in the room,” says Torre, “we take anything that’s in plain view. When we go to your room, and we smell marijuana, we can basically go through everything in your room and you have no legal right to refuse.”
Campus Safety then makes a referral to the Dean of Students, Anthony Skevakis, and the disciplinary role begins.
“I get an incident report,” begins Skevakis, “and the first thing I do is read the whole report, The next thing I do, as part of the administrative process, is to serve students with notice [of their alleged breach of the conduct or policy code].”
From there, Dean Skevakis sets up an initial meeting with the student, where they discuss the allegations and the role the student is accused of playing. This results in either a warning or disciplinary action, which the student has the opportunity to appeal, under certain circumstances.
Sometimes during this process, sanctions may be handed down on the student. This is where Ron Becker, Director of the Center for Personal Development, gets involved.
“One of those sanctions [by the dean] usually includes a referral to the counseling center for an assessment,” explains Becker. “At which time they go to us as a mandate…then they’re required to come and see one of the counselors there to be assessed or evaluated to determine whether they could benefit from some assistance in regards to the alcohol or drug [violation].”
These resources are available to students all the time – whether they have been written up or not! Administrators urge students to take advantage of the support that Saint Peter’s University offers, and at least know the rules before breaking them.
Read how college resident assistants handle alcohol in the dorms Click here for more!
*Name has been changed