Short of a few private institutions, alcohol is a part of student life at most every university in the country.
“The nationwide, college drinking culture frequently results in dangerous or life-threatening ways,” said Lindsey Hammond, coordinator of the Office of Alcohol, Drug, & Health Education.
Over 600,000 students are injured each year as a result of alcohol use Hammond said.
“Most RAs are content to let lower levels of intoxication go,” said Morgan Paugh, a junior tourism and events management major and resident advisor for two years. “But in dangerous situations, we’re trained to call the police and the hospital as well as file an incident report.”
“Mason offers a lot of education opportunities and alternatives to dangerous behavior, and that’s the kind of policy that’s going to help eliminate these trends,” said George Ginovsky, assistant chief of police at George Mason University.
Ginovsky said that police officers are not targeting drinking but possession.
When officers are involved with a situation involving underage drinking, their intervention is often at the behest of resident advisors or peers who are concerned about their friends or the safety of the students involved.
The brochure dealing with alcohol on campus is offered at the main office as well as on the Office of Alcohol, Drug, & Health Education website.
It states that any alcohol consumption under the age of 21 is illegal on campus and that certain residential areas are also classified as “dry zones” which strictly prohibit the consumption or possession of alcohol.
It also states on page two that by university policy, the body is considered a “container.”
The source of this policy is Virginia State Code section 4.1-305, which states that underage consumption of alcohol is illegal, and a person under the effects of alcohol can be found guilty of consumption.
The code also states that anyone purchasing alcohol with false identification will face a misdemeanor charge, and that any alcohol found will be forfeited to the state.
Some students, like sophomore government & international politics major Nathan Smuckler, think one problem is that resources like the Office of Alcohol, Drug, & Health Education are underutilized.
“It’s important to create an environment that promotes confidentiality and safety,” he said. “And support to this office [from the university] and trust will help combat underage drinking.”
Hammond said her office focuses on student health education, not policy enforcement.
Her office is behind many activities connected to student drinking, particularly the “Safe Spring Break Awareness Week” from March 5-9.
These activities focus on awareness, not hounding students over their behavior.
Furthermore, Hammond said her office is undergoing changes to fit the needs of a growing university, including a recent staffing increase and a growing partnership with other organizations on campus.
Overall, Ginovsky said alcohol abuse and alcohol regulations on campus are roughly the same as they are on any college campus.
“Not as many college students drink as you might think,” Paugh said. “The perception does not equal the reality.”