UNB Residential Life is implementing stricter rules to crack down on students’ unsafe drinking habits.
“We’ve always been concerned about students in residence that drink to the point that they’re putting themselves in danger or other people in danger,” said Angela Garnett, senior director of student life.
While the new procedures will apply to all students in residence, students under the legal drinking age will be looked at with greater scrutiny.
“Students that are not legally of age to drink are concerning for a couple of reasons. One, obviously it’s not legal. The other is that because they are much younger they tend to be less experienced with how to drink in a responsible way,” Garnett said.
The new procedure for mediating students with recurring drinking issues has three steps.
“Really the first step is a warning — it’s a meeting; it’s a conversation with them so that they fully understand why we’re concerned and hopefully have a bit of dialogue about it,” said Garnett.
If a student is involved with dangerous behaviour concerning alcohol for a second time, Garnett said a meeting with counselling services will be arranged.
“We’re working quite closely with counselling services and Dr. Rice Fuller specifically to have them attend an actual session with Dr. Fuller about the dangers of overconsuming and being responsible with alcohol intake once you’re of age to do so,” she said.
Should students continue to drink in an unsafe manner after their session with Dr. Fuller, they will be placed on a behaviour contract.
“It’s typically what we use in residence as an agreement where we clearly outline our expectations around their behaviour in residence,” Garnett said.
“They sign saying that they agree and understand that should they not uphold their end of the contract, the next step is looking at whether or not they can remain in that house.”
The third and final step is the removal of the student from their house or possibly from the residence community entirely.
No notable alcohol-related incidents have been reported in residences so far this semester, however Garnett believes that it’s too early to say whether or not the new rules have changed students’ drinking patterns.
“As an academic institution of higher learning, it’s important that we take an educational approach and that we do our very best to keep students safe. Hopefully that translates to being successful academically because that’s why they’re here,” said Garnett.
Lee Thomas, a proctor for Harrison House, isn’t so sure about ResLife’s new procedures.
“I have big concerns about the execution of these new rules. As a proctor, my number one concern is the safety and well-being of my residents, and I feel like this rule hinders my ability to do that job well,” Thomas said.
“Part of the proctor’s role is helping people as they learn what responsible drinking means. In residence you’re fortunate to have proctors there to support you and make sure you’re safe as you learn.”
Thomas said she is most concerned about the relationship between proctors and students changing.
“What I’m worried about is now, when someone underage is drunk, the proctor won’t be notified because people don’t want to get their friends in trouble,” she said.
“I’m scared that now, instead of a trained proctor making the call on whether to get medical help, we’ll have that person’s drunk friends making that call. And that judgement call, or lack thereof, can cost lives.”
Arielle Rechnitzer, another proctor, believes that responsible drinking is the key to a safe and happy residence.
“We see the value of drinking responsibly. Our goal is to maintain a safe and welcoming living environment for our residents. If people are getting into harm’s way because they’re drinking, the house’s morale is much lower,” she said.
“If stopping underage drinking was as simple as making a rule about it, the provincial alcohol laws would be sufficient and we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Thomas said.