The College Drug Policy Review Committee introduced a new Alcohol and Drug Policy to campus, restricting the sale and delivery of alcohol on campus and instituting automatic residential probation in response to certain violations of the policy. Changes to the Policy add to a list of existing rules that ban activities such as underage alcohol-consumption, the sale of alcohol to underage students and public consumption of alcohol and other drugs. The addition to the Policy gaining most attention – the automatic residential probation – adds to a list of pre-existing potential sanctions for Policy violators, such as academic suspension and restorative action responses.
A review of the Alcohol and Drug Policy is required every two years, and these changes are being implemented with the intention to clarify and highlight certain existing rules, according to Claudia Trevor-Wright, Assistant Director of Health Education and a primary authors of the altered policy. She and Don Leach, Associate Director of Residential and Campus Life, aimed particularly towards altering the policy to align with the Honor Code. “This cycle we focused on updating what was working well already,” Trevor-Wright said. Certain substantive changes, however, such as residential probation, have raised questions and concerns from students who feel the additions can be extreme.
If students violate the Residential Life No-Smoking Policy, they will be put on automatic residential probation for a period of time decided by the Associate Director of Residential and Campus Life, during which any other violation of Wellesley College policy “may result in the loss of college housing privileges in addition to other sanctions,” according to the official policy document. Residential probation lasts for a period of time determined on a case by case basis.
This addition to the policy comes after a significant increase in incidents of students were smoking marijuana in the residence halls last year, according to Trevor-Wright, who said that it endangers “every person in the building and every person that could be called to address that safety concern” and will not be “taken lightly.” This addition to the policy, as well as the banning of sales including over social media, and delivery of alcohol on campus, has received a mixed response from the student body.
“The ban on selling alcohol via social media even when the sellers and buyers are of legal age, is absolutely draconian,” said a sophomore who wished to remain anonymous. “Wellesley claims to foster confident, independent women, and so it is ludicrous that this college behaves like a babysitter as it apparently doesn’t even trust its students of legal age to handle their own sales and consumption of alcohol.”
Other students also felt that the policy was “excessive.” Sarah Kasha ’20 believes that selling alcohol, particularly over social media “doesn’t actually disrupt the community in any way provided the seller and buyer are 21.” Kasha understands, however, the intention of restricting alcohol sales over social media as “you are advertising to people who are not 21.”
This policy raised indignation in other students, such as Liz Shumway ’18 who said the Policy is “way too frigid for a school that has very well-mannered women. We’re in college, most of us are pretty responsible, it’s an unnecessary policy.”
Other students felt the policy is better-intentioned and directed toward student health and wellbeing. “I think it encourages students to be thinking of their health and safety instead of missing out on necessary care because of fear,” said Sahar Moheize ’17, the General Manager of Punch’s Alley. “As a pub staff member, I know that alcohol safety is our biggest concern and having a school wide policy that reflects that concern responsibly is something we value.”
And the policy may be less extreme than students expect. “Our response to an alcohol or other drug incident is evidence based and ‘high touch’,” said Trevor-Wright and Leach. “Several people take the time to listen to each student going through the process and craft a response that is most likely to reduce the likelihood of repeating any high risk behavior, attend to any concerns that come to light, address any impact to the community and provide an opportunity for self-reflection and learning.” The policy is also written in collaboration with students, keeping in mind the Honor Code and College specific data.
According to Trevor-Wright, feedback she has heard from students has been positive. “I think students sometimes expect our procedures to be punitive, shaming and humiliating,” said Don Leach, “They’re pleasantly surprised to find out that they’re not!”