Attitudes toward alcohol violations are changing at Goshen College.
But Chad Coleman, director of Student Life operations, quickly explained that Goshen College’s official rules regarding alcohol use have not changed.
“This isn’t a policy change,” Coleman said. “It’s a change in protocol.”
The Student Life “Guide to Community Life” continues to state that Goshen College is a dry campus — alcohol is not allowed on college property or at college-sponsored events. Students are expected to obey laws regarding underage drinking and to be responsible for themselves and their peers regarding the use and presence of alcohol.
Student Life is not operating under the assumption that Goshen College students will avoid alcohol at every turn, and there still are consequences for drinking underage or on campus.
At the same time, the attitudes surrounding infractions have been shifting over the last couple of years, and the consequences that come after these infractions are shifting as well.
College officials know they can’t control what students are doing off-campus, but they can sharpen the focus on the safety of students.
Gilberto Perez Jr., dean of students, shared the conversation points he expects RAs to have when they encounter an intoxicated student who has returned from drinking off-campus.
“Are you OK? Do you need help? I’m here to assess the situation.”
This is where the change in protocol occurs.
As long as students are not disrespecting others—disrespecting the community—they will not be documented.
“This is home for them when they're here,” said Kali Miller, residence life coordinator. “Having a policy in place in which students who choose to drink off-campus, regardless of age, and then not feel like they could come back to their own bed—I think that put students’ safety at risk.”
Keeping the students’ safety as top priority instead of handing out fines and community service penalties lands more closely to the atmosphere Student Life is trying to create on campus.
“Goshen College is about creating a culture of care,” Perez said.
That’s not to say that people won’t be documented at all. Students who come back to campus after drinking and are disruptive are creating an issue.
So why should students care about these rules? Student Life says they protect the community.
Students who choose not to consume alcohol, regardless of age or location, are affected by those who do, especially in the dorms as underclassmen are experiencing parties and alcohol for the first time. Coleman estimates that September has the “highest vomit per capita” in shared GC spaces like stairways, elevators, bathrooms or hallways.
Miller believes that community means more than just living next to each other and acknowledges that it keeps students accountable to each other.
“My opinion is if you’re going to live in community with each other, you should hold each other accountable,” Miller said. “When a student’s behavior in the community impacts others, that’s a problem.”
The new protocols try to balance the experiences of students who choose not to drink and those who make the decision to do so off-campus.
Micah Raber, a senior resident assistant in the Octavio Romero Student Apartments, acknowledged that there has historically been some ambiguity regarding rules and procedures between residence life, RAs and students.
But he doesn’t think this is an excuse to break community standards.
“If someone is signing up for something, they should know what they are signing up for,” Raber said. “It’s on students to know what the community standards are.”
When it comes to deciding if the shift is beneficial to students, Raber says he isn’t sure.
“Personally, I don’t know what the new procedure will make better,” he said. “It’s a case-by-case scenario.”
Perez said that the new protocols highlight “restorative practice over punitive action.”
[blocktext align="right"]“We want to build more trust around the ways students are using alcohol,” Perez said. “We are genuinely interested in their well-being.”[/blocktext]
Hiring counselor Rick Eby, a mental health professional who specializes in substance abuse, was a deliberate action over the summer in response to needs in the community. Student Life hopes to emphasize that assessment is happening by professionals for the sake of the student and the community in a way that is transparent from all sides.
“We want to build more trust around the ways students are using alcohol,” Perez said. “We are genuinely interested in their well-being.”
Overall, residence life leaders want students to know that they are listening and will adjust to the needs of the community.
“We are open to dialogue,” Perez said. “We are being conscientious and trying to be proactive.”
Raber feels the same way.
“We’re hearing you, and we want things to be better,” said Raber.