UW-Stevens Point contemplates alcohol ban on campus

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Following last year’s death of a UW-Stevens Point student who fell in a river after a night of drinking, the school is considering banning alcohol on campus entirely.

Both the city of Stevens Point and the university are working together to look at options to curb alcohol abuse on campus, according to the university.

For the time being, a complete alcohol ban is not imminent at UW-Eau Claire, Associate Director of Housing Deb Newman said.

“Those conversations have not started here,” Newman said.

Newman worked for Ball State University (Ind.) in a similar capacity running apartments prior to coming to Eau Claire. Ball State University had a no-alcohol policy in residence halls while she was there.

“I can’t really see that it made a difference in students’ behavior,” Newman said.

Some Eau Claire campus resident assistants don’t believe such a policy would work. Greta Schultz, a resident assistant in Putnam Hall, said in her experience, residents will drink alcohol at some point if they are so inclined, whether a ban existed or not.

“Unless you are regularly searching students’ rooms it would be an incredibly difficult thing to enforce. If students want to drink, they will find a way,” Schultz said.

Schultz said if no alcohol was allowed on campus, more students will go off-campus, which could lead to more trouble.

Molly Dukich, a resident assistant at The Plaza Hotel and Suites, said benefits from an alcohol ban would include establishing a safe and hazard-free living space.

She also said a complete ban of alcohol in the dorms is not a positive solution because students will have their own agenda for drinking.

“The only way to keep a tight reign on the dorms would be to give the rule enforcers more snooping permission,” Dukich said. “Even at UW-Eau Claire, it is tough to truly prove that an underage student was drinking if there is no hard evidence.”

Derek Wagner, a senior at Stevens Point who used to live on campus, said the issue with drinking on the campus specifically comes from the students who are under 21 and bring alcohol into the dorms.

“The 21-year-olds are probably the responsible people who are living in the dorms yearly for an education,” Wagner said. “The really big partiers are having their own house so they don’t have to deal with everything.”

Newman said there is no one key to curtailing drinking on campus and there are several factors. She said it involves changing a culture because there is a perceived rite of passage concerning drinking in college.

However, Newman said the manner in which people drink is gradually becoming more dangerous. Her department works to change that perception by providing what is called “social norming information” throughout each residence hall.

The program includes student surveys on how much they say they actually drink. The surveys usually reveal that there is not as big of a drinking culture on campus as perceived. It also includes talking to students about the dangers of alcohol.

“If you have ads in all of your bars promoting happy hour (and) drink as much as you can, that’s not a healthy environment,” Newman said. “So how can we change it so that it is more healthy and more adult and probably safer for everybody because it reduces a lot of problems.”

Those problems include people being more inclined to damage things; they are also more likely to hurt themselves and say things they may regret.

“Crime behavior goes up, smart behavior goes down,” Newman said.

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