MCSG reviews drinking policy

By Amy Ledig

A resolution that would make Residential Hall directors, and not Residential Assistants, responsible for alcohol policy enforcement passed at the Macalester Student Government Legislative Body’s meeting Tuesday night. An amendment added by Andrew Mirzayi ’10, a sophomore class representative and MCSG Vice President- elect, will establish a taskforce of MCSG members, Residential Life staff, administration members and students to evaluate the college’s current alcohol policy and its effect on the Macalester community.MCSG will now create a committee that will help determine how the policy change will be implemented. Laurie Hamre, vice president of Student Affairs, would have to approve the decision before any changes are enacted.

Jake Levy-Pollans ’09, a junior class representative, introduced the initial resolution. He said he thinks that having RAs responsible for policy enforcement and building trust with their residents creates a difficult situation.

Levy-Pollans said that the reasoning behind the change is that “communities led by RAs don’t seem to be working anymore. Asking RAs to build community and trust among students one day and write them up the next day some something they do too is [hard].”

He said he wants to see Macalester’s policy become more similar to those of our peer institutions, which, in contrast to Macalester’s emphasis on “a list of don’ts and ways you can be published,” he said, state that students need to obey the law, but also encourage students to make responsible decisions and educate themselves.

“The alcohol policy is one of those things that Mac students talk about and complain about but there’s never any real impetus to change it,” Levy-Pollans said.

He said that the inspiration for the change had come from a conversation he had been having with other students on MCSG.

“Conversation with friends turned into something for once… I want to start a conversation about alcohol policy, [which is] broken,” he said, adding that it is broken because upper classmen are moving off campus and underclassmen are making bad decisions.

Michael Waul ’09, a Wallace RA, said that having to both enforce policy and program activities creates tensions.

“The thing is,” he said, “when we confront people, that’s the end of our involvement.”

From that point on, the conduct board or Residential Life staff handles the incident, “[but] when people get the consequences, we look bad. It’s harder for us to do programming.”

“If one of the messages is that it’s become too primary of a role,” Dean of Students Jim Hoppe said, “that’s a problem we should address because it’s one [role] of many.”

Keith Edwards, director of campus life, said that he and Residential Life had not been drawn into the discussion yet and was skeptical of the proposal.

“I’m not sure how that would actually work,” Edwards said. “And I think that if they were serious about [changing the policy] they would have come and talked to us,” adding that he is open to discussion with students and to participating with the task force the resolution creates.

“If they want RAs not enforcing policy, then who is?” Edwards said. “If they want it to be hall directors, we’re going to have to hire a lot more hall directors.”

Hoppe said that students choose to live off campus for reasons beyond alcohol policy. “Are there people who move off-campus because of issues they have with policy enforcement? Yes,” Hoppe said. However, he added, “physical configuration” and financial issues play a significant role in the decision to move off campus, and alcohol policy is far from being the sole reason.

Kathy McEathron, Residential Life operation manager, agreed.

“I think cost is a factor more than anything,” she said.

Hoppe also stressed that he wanted to “redirect the misperception that there’s a flood” of students fleeing the dorms to live off-campus. He reiterated the point he made at the LB meeting on Tuesday night that the number of juniors and seniors requesting room draw numbers had increased from last year to this year.

McEathron said that this year 260 sophomores and 163 juniors requested room draw numbers. At upperclassman room draw on Tuesday, 182 sophomores and 123 juniors got spaces on campus. She said that there are currently eight people on the waitlist for singles, and several pairs that were unable to secure doubles. She said that last year there were approximately 350 room draw numbers requested by upperclassmen and five or six rooms were left unoccupied.

“Last year was up from the year before, and it’s up from two years ago,” McEathron said.

“What I’ve seen in my eight years of being here is we go back and forth.”

“We try really hard to hold students to reasonable expectations,” Edwards said. “We have an obligation to make sure our students aren’t breaking state law.”

“I don’t know any RAs who like enforcing policy, but they do it because it’s an expectation and they have the obligation to the rest of the people in the community.”

Not all RAs are on board with the plan, and some agree with Edwards that enforcement is just part of the job.

“I find it absurd to accept an RA position that aims at building a comfortable and respectful community but then shies away from enforcing the college rules and policies that aim to do that,” Bigelow RA Maliq Muro ’10 said. “To say that the whole matter should be dealt with by someone else really makes for lame duck RAs, and worse, increases bureaucracy and costs by having to hire more people to do a job that previously could have been done by RAs.