Drug, alcohol incidents up in security report

By Matt Day

For the second straight year, reported alcohol and drug violations increased on campus. And for the second straight year, college administrators attribute the increase to better reporting rather than a rise in drug or alcohol use or more stringent enforcement policies. The college’s 2008 security report, released Wednesday, showed an 8 percent increase in liquor law violations reported to campus security, to 268. Drug violations increased by 34 percent, to 124. In 2006 the report only indicated 59 drug violations.

Associate Res Life director Peg Olson said the increases the last two years are the result of a better system of reporting, in which RAs write down the names of individual violators. She also said that the crime report’s numbers – which include incidents from the 2008 calendar year – don’t reflect the decrease she has seen in alcohol incidents during the 2008-09 year compared to the previous year.

“Last academic year, we actually saw a fairly dramatic drop in the number of incidents although we have had RAs/CAs be able to get more information during an incident which gives a more complete listing of the students names and numbers,” Olson wrote.in an email “So although the the number of incidents were down, the numbers of students at an incident was more accurately detailed and we were able to follow-up with more students that were a part of the incident.”

If a party with illegal alcohol or drugs is broken up by Res Life staff, each individual there counts as one violation as far as the crime report is concerned, director of security Terry Gorman said.

“So if you find two parties with 25 people each, it starts to add up,” Gorman said.

RA Michael Coleman ’11 agreed with Olson’s and Gorman’s assessment. “Last school year … there was a considerable drop in conduct and violations from the previous year,” he said. “I’d say these stats are valuable. However, I’d say these stats mean little to Res Life because they overlap with different classes at Macalester. Different classes have different tendencies.”

Adam Van der Sluis ’11, another RA, said the figures weren’t the result of changes in Res Life policy. “Residential Life wants us as RAs to report violations whenever necessary, but also to make sure we don’t go looking for violations,” he said. “What comes to mind for me is something we were repeatedly told during training: ‘If you’re someone who is looking forward to reporting violations, we picked the wrong person.’ “

The other significant change year-to-year was an increase in reported sexual assaults, from one in 2007 to four last year.

Gorman said the change didn’t necessarily reflect an increase in sexual assaults, but was perhaps reflective of college efforts to inform students of their options if they are assaulted.

“I’m just hoping that [the increase] means we’ve got more students knowing where to go to get help,” Gorman said. “It’s a huge trust thing. As soon as we can help and give people options, it’s better.