Caught with Alcohol? Here's what you need to know

By Hannah Haley

Always a topic of discussion and controversy, issues of Residential Life policy and rights to privacy on campus often remain unclear to students. It can be difficult to sort out exactly which rights students retain on campus and in the dorms and which they relinquish. How far, for example, does a student’s right to privacy extend and under what circumstances is that right no longer applicable?Macalester’s 2007-2008 student handbook states that the college “holds the student’s right to privacy as a high value.”

Joe Kaufman, Residence Hall Director for Doty and Turck halls reiterated this sentiment. “Residential life staff take the privacy of students very seriously,” he said.

But this policy of maintaining privacy enters a grey area when it encounters underage alcohol possession and consumption which constitute the majority of alcohol related incidents on campus. College policy states that students who are “legally privileged to use alcohol must do so in a way that does not compromise the rights, obligations, and safety of others or disrupt the community standards” and that students under 21 years of age found with alcohol “will be required to pour out the alcohol in the presence of a residence hall staff member.”

Kaufman echoed the college’s policy. “Macalester College takes underage alcohol consumption seriously,” he said. “Students make many decisions while they are in college that either comply with state law or break the law.”

Kaufman further outlined the school’s basic stance on the issue. “Students need to comply with the college staff’s reasonable requests, including providing their name and opening doors when it becomes necessary to address specific situations,” he said. “A student may refuse to open his or her door but could face consequences for failing to comply with the request of college officials and would raise questions about why they refused to open their door.”

“Students have the power of choice,” Kaufman said. “However, with that choice the student must be willing to accept the consequence for their decisions.”

Jim Hoppe, Dean of Students, said the college tries to take a balanced approach toward the issue. “Our main focus is on health and safety. We want to help students develop healthy life patterns and avoid bad situations that may negatively impact their lives,” Hoppe said.

One of the main goals of the Residential Life staff is to establish a common position that allows fair and uniform enforcement of school policies, Hoppe said. “There are so many different ‘theys’ associated with and involved in residential life. It can be hard to be completely consistent depending on one’s interpretation of the policies, but I think we do a good job considering the size of the group,” Hoppe said.

Despite the strict policies outlining codes of conduct and consequences for breaking those codes, many students say the policies are often enforced at the discretion of the RAs in individual halls.

“I’ve never been at a party in a dorm that’s actually been written up,” said one sophomore who spoke anonymously. “The RAs usually tell us to keep it down or move somewhere else. They sometimes threaten to write it up if it gets too loud or out of control.”

Some RAs take a similar viewpoint. “It’s not as if we like writing people up,” said one RA speaking under the condition of anonymity. “We obviously don’t want anyone to get hurt or sent to the hospital, but as long as people are being safe about it, we try not to be ridiculous about it.