Unregulated time and unrestricted alcohol

David Shumway is one of our regular community contributors.

‘We don’t stop being citizens when we go to college; in fact, it’s even more important to enforce laws there because of the vulnerability and immaturity.’

Not long ago, college fraternities were justifiably accused of contributing to several campus sexual assaults around the country. Lately we’ve heard more about athletic teams being the culprits. Superficially, the culture of the two are similar: lots of camaraderie, bonding, and stupid initiations (and testosterone and youthful exuberance and a liking for beer). Maybe fraternities take more blame because of their parties, which young women attend.

There’s been vociferous outcry to get fraternities, individually or collectively, banned from campuses, but I’ve never heard of banning an athletic team for such misconduct. And athletic teams have even less excuse, with the additional supervision of supposedly responsible adult coaches and staff. Keep fraternities, but lay down the law.

It’s a dangerous situation. Freedom away from home means unregulated time and unrestricted alcohol, when hormones are peaking. This combination requires careful guidance and intervention at the time when the only guidance and intervention available is one’s peers, if you’re lucky.

The best protection may be a good group of peers (particularly women); together they can advise, interpret danger signals, discuss things, counsel on drinking, warn, and watch each other’s backs.

We can’t control hormones, but we can better control alcohol. Local jurisdiction laws should apply and be harshly enforced: underage drinking, public intoxication, open container, etc. We don’t stop being citizens when we go to college; in fact, it’s even more important to enforce laws there because of the vulnerability and immaturity. Intervention might even help the violator before (particularly he) does something really stupid.

There are at least two pertinent bills in Congress: The “Safe Campus Act” (SCA) and the “Campus Accountability and Safety Act” (CASA).

SCA makes the local police primary, and the university would be prohibited from involvement unless and until the victim files a police report. Some feel that this stifles women coming forward, partially when there might be some doubt about the seriousness of the incident. Fraternities and teams like the SCA because it focuses on an individual rather than the organization, and discourages frivolous charges.

CASA is in the form of an amendment to existing rules, and requires campuses to establish codes of conduct, encourage reporting, train appropriate personnel, track crimes and report outcomes and statistics. With respect to police, it only requires that the “memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement agencies delineating responsibilities and to share information” is readily available.

I read both the SCA and the CASA and don’t like either one. The SCA is self-serving to fraternities and teams. It violates universities’ legal and moral responsibilities to investigate reported crimes of sexual assault … and can disallow even reasonable immediate actions like initial interview by a coach or separating accused and accuser in class. CASA, or the other hand, doesn’t involve the police enough, and emphasizes bureaucratic reporting requirements and transparency. Maybe I should write my own.