Villanova students react to campus alcohol policy

Paul Martucci

As the sun begins to set in a burnt orange sky, the thud of a student’s overpowering bass resonates through Stanford Hall. In the Quad, the chatter of students attempting to chuck a football as far as possible fills the air. Meanwhile, the shouts that can be heard from the grassy areas of West Campus indicate an intense Ultimate Frisbee contest.

It is Friday afternoon at Villanova University.

A closer look, however, tells a different story. Just outside Good Counsel Hall, a student, dressed as if he is returning from the gym, struggles to carry what appears to be a massive, inexplicably heavy sport bag. As the football game continues in the Quad, several male and female sophomores sitting on the nearby benches exchange excited whispers about the night’s upcoming festivities. Meanwhile, on West an abnormally high number of juniors are pulling out of campus, only to return shortly thereafter with a slightly heavier load.

While a weekend at Villanova is typically characterized by fun and excitement, alcohol also undeniably plays a major role. Regardless of whether or not he or she chooses to drink, the decision of any particular student to consume alcoholic beverages affects everyone with whom that person comes in contact.

With the issue of alcohol consumption as prevalent as it is, the University, like any other educational institution in America, has constructed a guideline of how to handle those who choose to disregard the law by participating in underage drinking over the weekend. The policy is intended to protect not only the students consuming alcohol, but the community as a whole.

Villanova is considered a “moist campus.” It gets this title from the fact that the campus allows students who are 21 to bring alcohol into the residence halls. However, there are limitations to this rule. A student of legal drinking age is allowed to have the equivalent of one case of beer or one handle of liquor in his or her possession. The University complies with Pennsylvania state law that anyone under the age of 21 cannot consume or possess the substance.

This system has allowed Villanova to find the medium between a “dry campus” and a “wet campus.” On a “dry campus,” such as a school as close as Eastern University in Radnor, Pa., no alcohol is allowed through the campus gates regardless of your age. On a “wet campus,” as in Ivy League schools, such as Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania, no punishment is enforced by campus police, unless the alcohol consumption becomes a problem requiring medical attention.

While arguments exist for all styles of campuses in America, Paul Pugh, dean of students, believes that this system works well for Villanova.

“The Code of Conduct reflects countless ideals, such as healthy and safety, education, deterrence and consequence,” he said. “It makes students accountable and responsible for their actions.”

While the policy in action may be considered harsh in the eyes of some students, Pugh had a differing perspective.

“Some schools have a ‘three and out’ policy in which three offenses, regardless of their degree of disobedience, result in an automatic expulsion,” he said. “Additionally, the Code of Conduct allows those over the age of 21 to drink while on campus, which is a privilege that many other schools don’t offer.”

To enforce the Code of Conduct, the University has a system of several punishments that students may face upon being written up by an RA. One of those punishments is a fine.

Fines at Villanova are based on both the amount of alcohol and the type of alcohol the student has in his or her possession at the time of the offense. A six-pack of beer results in a $50 fine and a bottle of alcohol result in a $100 fine. The possession of a keg inside a residence hall, meanwhile, results in a $500 fine and a revocation of housing, while grain alcohol also results in a $500 fine.

While the fines may seem lofty and intimidating, Dean Pugh recalled from statistics gathered from the previous school year that almost 80 percent of fines relating to alcohol were less than $100.

In addition to fines, students face other forms of punishment. Many students are required to complete community service after their offense. Some are also required to meet with Margo Matt, assistant dean of students for drug and alcohol intervention, to discuss the specific activity that he or she was fined for.

Maintaining a community environment where everybody can thrive remains Pugh’s most adamant defense of the Code of Conduct. He backs the consequences set forth.

“They create accountability and a responsibility both to oneself and to the community,” Pugh said. “I don’t want individual students to detract from our society here at Villanova.”

Students, in turn, tend to have a diverse view of opinions on how the University handles its drinking policy. While some think the University does a commendable job in keeping a sort of unity on campus, others feel that the Code of Conduct can be improved.

One sophomore, Mike Durik, believes that the on-campus drinking policy is a fair one. He disagrees, however, with the enforcement of that policy.

“I don’t necessarily think there is problem with the drinking policy, but there is a problem with how strictly it is enforced,” he said. “Public safety and the administration should be more lenient with regard to alcohol write-ups. We are here to study and have fun, just like every other student attending college, and the over enforcement of the alcohol policy takes away from that.”

Another student, fellow sophomore Chuck Sgammato, took a stronger stance against the campus’s alcohol policy. In his opinion, the University should do a better job of shaping a policy that meets the needs and interests of the students.

“Because the alcohol policy is so strict, and penalties can be so severe – up to hundreds of dollars in fines for just one offense – it makes students view drinking on campus as a rebellious thing to do,” Sgammato said. “They feel that if they can drink and get away with it, they’re cheating the system and getting away with something; they feel special. If the administration wouldn’t put drinking up on a pedestal and loosen the penalties, it wouldn’t be as appealing to sit in dorm rooms and drink.”

In addition, Sgammato believed that an increase in alcohol education courses, combined with community service hours, would help alter many students’ opinions on drinking altogether.

In regard to the relationship between the administration and the students, both Durik and Sgammato believed that an increase in the outreach from the administration could help students put a face to the names of the policy enforcers. In doing so, Sgammato believed that administration could become “more of a friend than a punisher,” helping improve the on-campus issue.

Pugh admits that the policy isn’t perfect, but he also acknowledges that no policy that is executed by humans can ever be perfect. Nevertheless, according to Pugh, the current policy has the interests of all students at heart.

“We really don’t want our students to get hurt,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we just take our hands off it and say that college students will be college students. Most Villanova students are honest, and they understand accountability. And most students ultimately learn from it.”