Sobering Up

Sobering Up

By EMILY CLANCE
Copy Editor
In October 2012, sopho- more criminal justice major Presston Triguero attended a dance in Piedmont’s student center gym. Already intoxi- cated, he soon found himself sick in the bathroom and was escorted to the campus police office by staff members, where the officers discovered he had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit.
Despite the fact that Trigue- ro is under 21, however, he was not arrested. His punishment was to spend the night in a “holding cell” in the Getman- Babcock dorm next to the campus police office.
“There’s nothing in there but a bed,” Triguero said, “so it feels really kind of big, open, lonely… Other than that, I couldn’t remember much.”
After a record-breaking number of alcohol-related ar- rests over the 2011-2012 school year, Piedmont’s policy re- garding on-campus drinking changed at the beginning of the fall semester. Instead of being sent to spend the night in Habersham County Jail and getting their mugshots on the front page of the Navi- gator, students are now able, and more likely, to spend the night in the room in GB, where Triguero eventually sobered up.
This new option of having a chance to stay on-campus instead of being sent to jail ap- peared suddenly in the first few weeks of the fall semester of the 2012-2013 school year, leav- ing many students wondering why it was implemented at that time – or why it’s even an op- tion at all.
Students like Triguero be- lieve it’s for the benefit of the student body, but others sus- pect it’s just a move to make Piedmont look better to poten- tial students and will have little to no effect on the number of alcohol violations.
“I find it very humorous, yet also very dumb,” said Seth Latoni, a sophomore business major. “No one’s going to care if you spend a night in GB, but it’ll have more of an impact ifyou spend a night in jail, espe- cially if you’re arrested for un- derage consumption.”
According to a statement by Drew Davis, dean of student affairs, in the Aug. 28th issue of the Navigator, the change in the alcohol policy is for the good of the students.
Dick Martin, chief of cam- pus police, said that the stu- dents’ behavior determines whether they are sent to jail for alcohol violations.
“If we feel like they’re be- ing cooperative, and we think that we can come back and keep an eye on them and they won’t cause any further prob- lems, then we have an option to bring them back here,” he said.
“Their behavior determines what the outcome’s going to be… So far this year, the peo- ple we’ve run into have been people we can work with.”
Triguero agrees that cam- pus police wants the best for students. “If you’re being cooperative, respectful, and you’re not way over the limit, it’s a possibility that you can go in [the holding cell]… They can decide whether they want to hold you or take you,” he said.
Martin also said that cam- pus police did not arrest stu- dents of legal drinking age, only those who were under the age of 21 at the time they were caught. Students who were of age and found to be intoxicat- ed were written up for a viola- tion of campus policies.
The 2011-2012 student hand-
book says that “possession, use, sale, gift, or other transfer of intoxicants in any form or manner on the College cam- pus is strictly prohibited… Stu- dents under the age of 21 who have consumed alcohol or any- one who has used illegal drugs are in violation of state law and subject to arrest and/or sanctions.” An updated hand- book has not been released.
Other small, private schools in Georgia have comparable policies regarding on-campus alcohol possession and con- sumption. No alcohol is al- lowed on the campus of Berry College in Floyd, for example, and according to the school’s student handbook, “any stu- dent on the campus who is in possession of or under the influence of alcohol will be charged with a violation of col- lege policy and/or state law.”
Reinhardt University in Waleska is also a dry campus, as are several other schools such as Morehouse College in Atlanta and Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, so Pied- mont is not an abnormality in this sense.
In 2011, Berry had six ar- rests and 30 referrals for liquor law violations. Reinhardt had three arrests and 41 referrals, and Piedmont had 14 arrests and no referrals, as reported in each school’s annual campus safety report. Piedmont has not used a referral system in the past.
Comparatively, Piedmont has the fewest number of alco- hol violations, but the highest
number of arrests. Because Berry and Reinhardt both have more referrals, their crime re- cords do not appear as bad as Piedmont’s, which is based only on arrests.
The record-breaking num- ber of arrests for the 2011- 2012 school year, a total of 14, prompted the addition of a chance to sober up on campus instead of in a jail cell. Many students believe that the move was made for the sole purpose of improving Pidemont’s im- age.
Triguero said that, despite the consequences, the old drinking policy did little to deter students from breaking the rules. He added that he’s not sure what effect the new procedure will have on the amount of on-campus under- age drinking
“I think it would increase, logically,” he said. “They have a chance to be put in that hold- ing cell, they’re going to press their luck even more.”
However, he does think this new option has the potential to benefit students.
“For those kids who have had mugshots, I think it was probably really embarrassing for them,” he said. “And now that it’s not really happening as much, people aren’t gossip- ing as much, they aren’t mak- ing fun of that one person. So I think, in a way, it makes it a little bit better.”
Martin shares Triguero’s viewpoint. He, too, is un- sure of how the addition of the holding cell will affect thenumber of liquor law viola- tions, but that it will take a few years to determine if it changed anything, for better or for worse.
One thing that has not changed, however, is that campus police is trying to look out for the well-being of Piedmont’s students, no mat- ter what the policy regarding alcohol is.
“Our objective was to al- ways stop the damage there,” Martin said. “They’ve broken a rule, they’ve broken a law, let’s make sure they don’t do any further harm to themselves or somebody else. The best op- tion for them would be just to wait until they’re 21 years old and do things legally.
“People do not realize – and I’ve seen it since I’ve been here – that once this stuff gets on your record, it’s there for the whole rest of your life. Al- though some people will say ‘well, the employer is going to look at it and say it’s just some- thing dumb they’ve done in college,’ I’ve been there where you have two options, and one of the option is a person who has a completely clean record and a person who has some- thing on their record, and that becomes a factor.
“Some of these little things we think are so simple, they can cost you. That’s the one good thing about this option [of staying on campus instead of being arrested]. It keeps it off your record.”
If a liquor law violation ap- pears on a potential employee’s background check, the chanc- es of the person in question getting hired drop, especially in the education field and for jobs in the government.
Just one instance of under- age consumption on a back- ground check has the potential to make someone lose his or her job. Martin cited the story of a former Piedmont student who attempted to get a job at a high school but was turned down because of an instance of underage drinking that ap- peared on her background check.
“This is the part that people don’t think about,” he said. “It goes with you from now on.”