College boasts some of Va.’s toughest drinking rules

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September 13, 2010

10:42 PM

A review of the alcohol policies at several of Virginia’s other public universities indicates that the College of William and Mary has some of the toughest rules concerning on-campus drinking in the state.

While every university policy examined requires students to abide by state and federal laws governing the consumption, sale and distribution of alcohol, the College’s own regulations of alcoholic consumption remain rather strict.

All of the policies examined, including those of the University of Virginia, George Mason University, Radford University, James Madison University and Virginia Commonwealth University, prohibit the use of kegs at on-campus events.

However, the College also prohibits any common container — including bottles of wine that exceed 750 ml.

“What rules like this does is make people in violation who would otherwise not be,” Director of Student Legal Services Ryan Ruzic J.D. ’11 said. “There’s a tremendous difference between a keg and a large wine bottle or pitcher.”

However, while some of the College’s policies may be considered harsher than those of other universities, the standard of proof required to sanction students for violating any of the College’s policy is more difficult to overcome.

Most universities require a preponderance of evidence to find students responsible for alcohol violations, whereas at the College, clear and convincing evidence is required.

Proposed changes to the College’s Student Handbook lowering the standard of proof were postponed Sept. 3 after students raised concerns over how it would affect the judicial process. Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D. ’06 said that the change would be explored during the academic year.

The College’s unique student population and the relative availability of on-campus housing compared to other, larger universities fuels the perception that the College’s alcohol policy is stricter than that of its peers.

Since 1991, approximately 75 percent of the College’s undergraduate population has lived on campus, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs and Director of Residence Life Deb Boykin said.

“More and more of our students live in student housing. As a side effect of that, all students are substantially affected by the alcohol policy,” Ruzic said. “Even if the rules were relaxed, it would still seem stricter than other comparable colleges.”

At JMU, a vast majority of the students who live on-campus are freshmen or sophomores, JMU Assistant Director of Judicial Affairs Tammy Knott said. Because underage drinking is prohibited nationwide, JMU has tailored its on campus alcohol policy for residents who are, for the most part, underage.

“We only have a handful of people who are over 21 [on-campus],” Knott said. “The rule if you are over 21 is you can only have the amount of alcohol you could consume in one sitting.”

Although students living off campus remain subject to the same alcohol policy, rules dictating alcohol use in JMU facilities do not apply.

“Anything that happens in Harrisonburg, or in the surrounding county, deal with it,” Knott said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 21.”

Policies listed on the College’s website give no indication as to how off-campus violations are handled.

The College’s Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct Dave Gilbert did not return a request for comment.

While the College’s alcohol policies are considered strict, violations do not carry Radford’s “three-strike” policy. According to Radford’s Standards of Student Conduct, third offenses of the alcohol policy generally carry a punishment of suspension, along with participation in a private alcohol treatment program.

A spokesperson for Radford University could not be reached at press time.

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