Akande announces new drug and alcohol rules
BY COURTNEY GALLAGHER
President Akande discussed recent changes to the college’s alcohol and controlled substance policies, which include higher fines for violations and counseling for offenders, in a town hall meeting on Tuesday.
“I have received feedback about the use of alcohol and drugs on campus, which frankly, surprised me,” he said before a packed lecture hall.
Akande said that reports of students smoking in the Quad and other residence halls, as well as concerns from both parents and students about increased use on campus, prompted him to do his own research, where he found “troubling” statistics.
According to data that Akande shared from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries each year, over 97,000 students report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape, and 25 percent “report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.”
Akande said that this was indicative of a national problem he wants to address at Westminster.
“I am compelled to make sure you are safe every day on this campus,” he said. “As your president, your success is my priority. Nothing is more important.”
Under the updated policies, which can be accessed in their entirety in the student handbook, a first offense of the alcohol policy includes a minimum of 10 hours of on-campus service, a $100 fine to the student’s account, a mandatory educational sanction and placement on Conduct Warning.
Upon a second offense, students will be put on disciplinary probation and assigned a minimum of 20 hours of service and a $200 fine, in addition to a meeting with the president and being required to complete an alcohol assessment.
Students with a third offense may be fined up to $500 and are eligible for suspension or dismissal from the college.
A fine up to $500 is also the consequence for a first infraction of the controlled substances policy. Students who violate the policy will also be required to complete up to 50 hours of on-campus service, meet with the president and face additional sanctions, which may include eviction from college-owned housing, suspension, or dismissal.
A second infraction may result in a $1,000 fine and up to 100 hours of service, as well as additional sanctions, and a third infraction may result in suspension or dismissal from the college.
The policy also states: “The cases where there may be evidence of distribution, with or without evidence of personal use, will result in immediate expulsion from Westminster College.”
Akande said this issue is not just about drinking or drug use.
“This issue is about our values,” he said. “I want you to have fun. College is an experience you get to do just once in a lifetime … but fun has to be smart … it has to be tempered with responsibility.”
Akande encouraged students struggling with drug or alcohol use to come talk to him, stating that doing so would not be considered a violation, and emphasized that he wants to be proactive when it comes to substance use.
“I want you to be healthy; I want you to be engaged; I want you to be successful,” Akande said. “We can’t afford to lose you.”
Students’ reactions to the town hall were mixed.
“I thought that Dr. Akande did a good job of addressing a controversial issue in a way that made students understand how important the new policies are,” Jordan Esry, ’18, said after the meeting.
Senior Jamie Striler also had a positive reaction to the town hall format.
“The fact that the lecture hall was completely full and the president took the time to come get feedback from students shows how much our campus cares,” she said.
Others thought the information should have been conveyed to students in a different way.
“I would have respected the changes more if they had been presented in a less political and more transparent way,” Karley Long, ’18, said. “We’re all busy young adults who don’t have time for frills and presentation. We just wanted the facts and didn’t even get them until after the meeting on a piece of paper,” she said, referring to the policies handed out to students as they were leaving.