Safety first; Encouraging a safe party culture for all students through policy changes

September 16, 2015 by The Williams Record Editorial Board

We at the Record believe that the College’s recent changes to the party policy are well-intentioned, with the ultimate goal being increased safety and improved relationships between students and Campus Safety and Security (CSS). We are, however, concerned that certain elements of the new policy may not support that broader goal in actuality, and we hold that the new rules should be expanded as much as possible to include first-years along with upperclassmen.

Creating a culture of registering parties, as these changes seem to aim to do, could be mutually beneficial for both CSS and the student body. Knowing where exactly students are gathering allows CSS to get a better sense of campus social life and any higher-risk areas on a given night, which should keep students safer. While in the past there was little incentive to register a party, the policy changes do encourage registration in a more persuasive way than before. Though registration does mean that a CSS officer will very likely walk through a student’s party — possibly a detractor for party hosts — it also means that said officer will do no more than check in if the responsible party standards are being upheld. These inspections will theoretically be unobtrusive and would therefore promote positive student-CSS relations, as party hosts and attendees would feel respected and dangerous situations would be kept to a minimum. Additionally, because the deadline for registration is much more lenient, students who may not have planned their gathering far enough in advance now have the opportunity to register even at the last minute.

We at the Record feel the new responsible party standards are fair. Increased leniency with beer and wine should decrease the consumption of hard alcohol, as should the absence of common source alcohol. This new system also holds students responsible for their gatherings more than past policies did, as the registerer of the party would be accountable for any overcrowding, noise complaints or mess left at the scene. This level of responsibility is certainly reasonable for any student wishing to host a party.

Students should never hesitate to call CSS during a party or for alcohol-related reasons when safety is in question, and fear of punishment may discourage them from doing so. We feel that the new consequence of meeting with a dean for an alcohol-related infraction rather than CSS, however, is not overly harsh and may even create closer relations between the deans and the student body.

The new system of registration ultimately appears to beneficial, especially because it is available to everyone, regardless of age. We understand that it would be difficult to expand these new rules to first-year dorms, as it would call into question their designation as dry. Though we understand why that designation may be necessary, applying these new rules to first-year dorms is the strongest way to create the culture that the new policy hopes to foster. First-years who fear a walk-through from CSS may be more likely to drink alone in their rooms, a far more dangerous practice, and may be less likely to use CSS’ services or the registration system in the future. Additionally, we at the Record believe the current designation undermines the Junior Advisor (JA) system. The JAs work to ensure that first-years develop responsible and safe habits, and hiding from CSS in the event of alcohol consumption cannot be one of them. We understand that the College’s hands are to some extent tied with regards to this designation, and we urge them to continue to find ways to ensure trust is built between CSS and first-years.

Finally, these changes must be presented to the College community clearly so that all students are aware of the policy. While some instances will be handled on a case-by-case base, a clearly stated policy nonetheless sets the standards for campus, and students need to know of the changes to avoid penalties and begin creating this culture.

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