SLE reinforces alcohol policy

Leaders of student organizations across campus received a pair of emails in the opening weeks of the semester about that ubiquitous element of college life: alcohol.
Interim Dean of Students Trae Yeckley sent the emails on Aug. 30 and Sept. 12 in their capacity as Associate Dean of Students for Community Standards and Wellness. Yeckley reminded students that under the college’s policies, any “student organizations or campus-sponsored events” where alcohol is present must be registered with the school.
“We know that there is alcohol at events,” Yeckley said in an interview this week. “We’re not a dry campus, and instead of trying to force a no-alcohol policy and have students not abide by that, we’d rather provide some education and ensure for some safe, and responsible and legal drinking”
Yeckley said that, as written, the policy does not apply to a group of friends — of legal age — cracking open a few cold ones.
“Say we had a special interest housing for curling and the house decided to throw a party,” Yeckley said. “Because it’s a special interest house — you’re considered the special interest house because you’re part of the same organization, curling — that would be considered a campus-sponsored event or student organization event.”
Special-interest housing includes all fraternities and sororities that live on college-owned property.
“Any event at one of the fraternity houses that is considered a party — I think our housing policy says you can have two guests (per person),” Yeckley said. “After two guests, it’s considered a party, then that needs to be registered.”
Although this may seem aimed squarely at the college’s FSL community, Yeckley said that this is a byproduct of the language of the policy and not a deliberate censorship of that community.
“It feels like we’re targeting the fraternity and sorority housing and some of the special interest housing, because of that classification of ‘student organization or campus sponsored events,’” Yeckley said. “Eventually we will probably end up changing the policy to be more inclusive (to) all parties on campus, but that will have to go through shared governance.”
The college’s Interfraternity Council did not respond to requests for comment.
The actual registration form deals with the logistics of the event, designating contact information and ensuring food or non-alcoholic beverages will be served for non-drinkers or so drinkers can moderate their alcohol consumption. It also asks the organizers how they are going to prevent underage students from obtaining alcohol and how they will regulate headcount within a space.
Once the form is submitted, registration is complete; event organizers do not need to wait for approval from Student Life indicating that they are registered.
“Now, if I go in and see the registration form and it’s actually not complete, then I’ll email the organization back and say, ‘Hey, your registration form is not complete,’” Yeckley said. “Our goal isn’t to have students stop having parties. Our goal is for them to party safely, responsibly and legally.”
According to the college’s “Non-Academic Conduct Report” for the 2021-22 Academic Year, 28 charges were filed against students relating to alcohol consumption, with most — 21 charges — relating to underage consumption. By comparison, around 32 charges were filed for using or possessing marijuana, and 24 charges were filed for “disorderly conduct.”
However, Yeckley emphasized that getting help for a student in an unsafe situation would not lead to a charge under the college’s “Good Samaritan” policy, which protects students who call for help.
“If you’re hosting an event and someone has some alcohol poisoning or other issues, please call,” Yeckley said. “We would rather you and your guests be safe than fear sanctions.”
This policy is part of the larger Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989, which requires schools that receive federal funding — like Allegheny — to set up mechanisms for illegal drug use and unlawful provision of alcohol to minors. If the college is audited, and it is found that staff were aware of alcohol at an event but did not enforce registration of it, the institution may lose its federal funding.
Yeckley said that even unadvertised events can appear on their radar through social media and word-of-mouth.
“It’s a really small campus,” Yeckley said. “People post things on Instagram, Yik Yak — I know that people think Yik Yak’s anonymous, I will put this on the record: administration is on Yik Yak. I know I’m gonna get a shout-out on Yik Yak for that comment.”
This intelligence, Yeckley said, can and will drive enforcement of the college’s policies.
“We’re never going to go unfounded on a whim of, ‘I think I’m just gonna go check on this house tonight to make sure there’s no alcohol,’” Yeckley said. “We’re not gonna do that. It’s if we have a reasonable cause that something is going on.”