Alcohol Violations at Saint Peter’s: From the Eyes of Resident Assistants

By Diamond Reid and Krystal Nurse

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Source: Saint Peter’s University 2014 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report

Cleaning up one’s past isn’t an easy task and can be hindering if change doesn’t happen in a timely manner. People, however, have been successful in doing so and used their past as a lesson to others. Edwardo Rodriguez, a Resident Assistant (RA) in freshman dorm Millennium Hall,  does so with his residents.

“It was a regular summer night in 2012 when me and the guys were prepping a huge party we were going to throw that night,” Rodriguez recalled. “He had bought a serious amount of liquor and beer and we’re going to go all out that evening. However, while pregaming with a game of beer pong, RA’s knocked on the door because they had heard music and ping pong balls, they came in and wrote me and my buddy up. We had one beer out on the table and living in Murray, no alcohol was allowed. They told us they were just documenting it, but we knew what happened. After writing us up they never came back that night, so we went ahead with our party.”

Rodriguez, however, was not done when the RA left and received an email from the dean about setting up a meeting to talk about what happened. His penalty for the incident was an alcohol 101 class and 25 hours of community service.

“This severely hindered my chances of applying for the RA position that year. So I waived it off for the year and decided to move on. I applied my junior year and was very nervous of that write up because I thought it was impossible to be hired with a mark against your name. However, the entities that hired me were ecstatic that I was going for it, but didn’t hire me outright and I was hired as an ARA and not an RA at first. I thought it was because of my reputation of the party animal that led them to being scared off.”

While alcohol abuse at St. Peter’s is relatively low when compared to national statistics, the number of violations are indeed rising.

Saint Peter’s rests in the heart of Jersey City, spanning the length of Glenwood Avenue. The east and west sides of campus are connected by a pedestrian bridge built above Kennedy Boulevard. Undergraduate commuters take a lead in size on campus at 62% according to the university’s “Facts and Stats” page.

All students have to abide by a student code of conduct, which every student is made aware of during orientation. RAs, have the right to write up any student who violates the following: code of conduct, rules of living on campus, and building-specific rules.

Writing up residents can become hectic on both sides of campus.

“Down the hill it’s Tuesday’s,” said Charlotte Caporrino, RA of Durrant. “I imagine it’s different up the hill because students are confined to their rooms, whereas they don’t have a whole apartment.”

Edwardo Rodriguez, RA of Millennium, has a different experience. He considers Thursdays and the weekend to be more hectic.

“Everyone is unwinding from classes and/or work and want to ‘have fun.’ It’s like they don’t realize we know the days that are usually the craziest. We’ve figured out their tricks, and they still think they can get away with partying up here.”

Drinking can become a problem if a student doesn’t pay attention to how much they’re drinking, and if it’s being used as a way to cope with stress or depression.

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“People drink alcohol to relieve depression despite the fact that it is a depressant, and the effects can be felt within 12 hours and the effects can dangerously negative,” said Ron Becker, Director of Center of Personal Development.

One in every five students visit the center and up to half of those that do visit, are there for alcohol or drug issues. Becker, however, said that the two most common reasons students go to the center is for depression and relationship issues. There are, however, times where Personal Development cannot help a student and refer them to a licensed professional.

When a student visits the center, they are counseled by a staff member and will learn about how the student became involved in alcohol, what other outside factors may be involved, and educate them on how to cope with what they are going through and be safe with alcohol.

With the rise in alcohol violations, RAs have remained persistent in reminding their residents to stay safe around alcohol.

“I send out emails to my residents of little reminders like don’t get in trouble,” said Caporrino.

“This past October, I think all of the RAs did their bulletin boards on alcohol awareness. It would be different tips, the effects of alcohol in the body, and abusing it. As a whole we try to educate, even though some students may not pay attention to it. We do actively try to educate the residence.”

Being up the hill on the “dry side” of campus, Rodriguez has to approach this subject with a softer approach. With his residents not being allowed to drink, RA’s in Saint Peter Hall, Millennium, and Whelan have come up with different tactics to handle drinking.

Recently, the RA’s in Millennium, Saint Peter Hall, and Whelan had an all-haul where all of the RA’s in the buildings came together to have an event about smart drinking. Although their residents are not legally allowed to drink, it was a unanimous decision to hold an event on alcohol awareness.

“We made the event a learning experience for everyone, although our residents aren’t legally allowed to drink, we thought that this subject needed to be discussed and made into a learning experience,” Rodriguez said.

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Source: Saint Peter’s University 2014 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report

Like Saint Peter’s, Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J. makes an effort to educate students on drinking with a mandatory online class for freshmen, or to have activities with alcohol-free beverages, reported CBS New York.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said that a standard drink contains 14 grams of pure alcohol. The institute recognizes that different beverages contains different amounts and that effects vary person to person due to five things: age, frequency of  drinking, quantity of drinks, family health history, and personal health status.

In 2014, Fairleigh Dickinson had a total of 34 liquor law violations on campus compared to Saint Peter’s with 49; Fairleigh Dickinson’s 34 violations went up significantly from just five in the previous year.

While both Fairleigh Dickinson and Saint Peter’s has had a climb in liquor violations, the population of both universities are to be considered. Less than 1% of the 11,619 student body at Fairleigh has had a violation. Saint Peter’s had approximately 1.5% of the 3,302 students with violations.

Comparable to Rowan University, who not only has a similar enrollment to Fairleigh at 13,169, their percentage of violations is significantly higher at 3.1%. Rowan, like Fairleigh and Saint Peter’s, educates the students on how to drink responsibly and trying to sway underage people away from alcohol.

An excerpt from Saint Peter’s recent  Clery Act reads, “Saint Peter’s University adheres to strict drug and alcohol policies that prohibit the unlawful possession, use, sale, or distribution of alcohol and/or controlled dangerous substances/illicit drugs by students, faculty and staff.”

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics or Clery Act for short requires all college and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to disclose information about crime (including alcohol and drug violations) on and around their campus.

The Center for Personal Development on campus wants students to respect alcohol and understand its limits.

Understanding that school can be stressful and sometimes leads students to turn to alcohol and drugs as a stress reliever, CPD now offers a podcast for students which features a meditation exercise, allowing students to release negative stress and keep a healthy mind.  

For drugs, Scott Torre, Director of Campus Safety, noted that the offenses all have been either weed or paraphernalia related. Further adding that students do not use hard drugs on campus or in residence halls.

With a drug violation, a student undergoes the same protocol in following through with the probation. Students also waive the right to a search if weed is reported to be coming from their room, which includes both Saint Peter’s and personal items.

For marijuana, Ron Becker said that the drug helps people calm down, lowers anxiety, and relieves pain. He added that it is in its safest, purest, most controlled form when it is medically prescribed. The reason being that street marijuana can be laced with other hallucinogens, dangerous chemicals, or drugs.

As the Center for Personal Development usually sees students for depression and relationship issues, the counselors do their best in helping a student cope and adjust to college life.

Students are given more individual responsibility and ownership [in college],” said Becker. “We help them develop a hierarchy of importance and immediacy. We help a student become more cognitively responsible in their decisions.”

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