At first glance, offenses down

By Samuel Charles

Every year, colleges in the U.S. are required by law to circulate crime statistics deemed germane to their campus. Such numbers include on-campus assault, arson, manslaughter and drug and liquor law violations.

The two most common offenses in Columbia’s annual reports from 2007 through 2009 were liquor and drug law violations. While the numbers appear to decrease, the method used to report those numbers may be misleading.

Columbia saw a 44 percent decrease in liquor law violations in student residence centers between January 2007 and December 2009, dropping from 672 reported incidents in 2007 to 378 in 2009. However, the number of drug offenses in student residence centers increased from 148 to 206 in 2007 to 2008 before falling from 2008 to 2009 to 187.

While Columbia’s numbers show a decrease in violations, Ann Almasi, coordinator of Residence Life Adjudication, has noticed little difference in the number of adjudication meetings.

The meetings are held between a representative of the Residence Life Office and the student who violated the policy. The meeting addresses what happened that warranted the meeting and what the student must do as punishment for the violation.

“Our number of liquor law violations has stayed pretty much consistent,” said Almasi. “If there’s a fluctuation, I would have to attribute it to a fluctuation in the University Center. I would love to claim a huge drop, but they’ve stayed pretty consistent.”

The violations reported to University Center security are counted with violations reported in Columbia’s other residence centers by the Office of Residence Life and The Office of Safety and Security—regardless of whether or not a Columbia student was involved. While the whole number may have dropped, there is a similar number of Columbia violations throughout the report.

By comparison, drug and liquor law violations occurring on campus but outside student residence centers are rare. Between 2007 and 2009, there were two

drug law violations on campus property reported to security. In the same time period, there were three liquor law violations on campus property other than a student residence center. All three instances were reported in 2008.

The decline of violations can be attributed to more awareness in students and their parents, said Robert Koverman, vice president of Campus Safety and Security.

“As a whole, our society has targeted alcoholism and underage drinking,” Koverman said. “When we meet with incoming freshmen at orientation we really stress our alcohol policy as well as the law in Illinois in terms of underage drinking. We have really concentrated on awareness in terms of underage drinking and the use of non-prescription drugs and how harmful [they] can be and how it can affect your career.”

By comparison, the number of liquor law violations in DePaul University’s Lincoln Park Campus residential facilities drastically increased between 2007 and 2009.

In 2007, there were 231 liquor law violations. By 2009, the number increased to 574, according to DePaul’s annual crime report.

However, the number of drug law violations in DePaul’s Lincoln Park residential facilities decreased in 2009 after seeing a rise in 2008.

In DePaul’s annual report, it makes a distinction in how many violations at the University Center of Chicago, 525 S. State St., violations involved students of the university. In fact, it records violations in the University Center separately from those occurring in its Lincoln Park residential facilities.

Few students violate the college’s policies more than once, Almasi said. Most find their initial punishment reason enough to not violate the policies again.

Punishments can include performing community service, mandatory attendance of an on-campus event and writing a reflective essay on it and a contract between roommates to establish more concrete rules.

Almasi said many violations are a result of bad communication between roommates.

“We have a lot of good options,” Almasi said. “Columbia takes a very educational approach to giving out sanctions. The amount of people who violate the policy twice is really small.”