Kington mandates substance free college trips

The administration enacted an interim policy that stipulates all college-funded trips are subject to the same rules and that all participants must be substance-free for the entirety of these trips, for the first time including those funded only through SGA.

Ever since last year, the administration had been in talks about formulating a uniform alcohol policy that can be applied to all college-funded trips. Recently, these talks gained new momentum when ReNew declined funding from the CRSSJ that required all of its participants, including those who are 21 and over, to be substance-free and instead sought funding from SGA.

According to President Raynard Kington, several issues prompted the administration to formulate a new policy regarding alcohol on college-funded trips. The most prominent ones are liability concerns, the lack of a uniform travel policy and a desire for students to portray a certain image of the College while off-campus.

“There are multiple parts of this. We looked at all of this, the issues about representing the College, of consistency, we’ve discussed with our attorneys the reality that there are legal liability issues whenever we support an activity for students, off-campus in particular,” said Kington. “We want to do everything we can to minimize risk of harm to the students first, and second, of liability to the college.”

Gabe Schecter ’12, President of the SGA, feels that this new policy is an infringement on students’ right to self-governance and that it demonstrates a lack of trust in the student body.

“The state law is not lax, it’s very real, it’s more real when you’re outside the campus. … To think that students act unaware of such consequences off-campus is untrue,” Schecher said. “If we’re going to preach self-governance and inter-floor relationships, why wouldn’t we let self-governance apply within the groups on these trips?”

Madeline Eiler ’12, a ReNew leader, shares Schecter’s concerns and is worried about the implication of these new policies on the group dynamic of future ReNew trips.

“It’s not just about kids wanting to drink, it’s more about the agency,” Eiler said. “I think this will change the way ReNew works; it puts the leaders in an awkward position because if participants decide to go against the waiver and drink, it risks our status as a student group and makes the leaders have to be more like chaperones, rather than equals.”

Kington asserts that liberty is not the only aspect of self-governance that needs to be considered.

“There are two parts of self-gov: one is inward looking about how we make decisions; the other is outward looking about how do we, as a community, interact with the world out there. It’s about asking what image we want to put forth of ourselves,” he said. “Sometimes you might do something that might constrain you but you might do it because of your devotion to an institution and that’s the part that you don’t hear much and that’s something we need to change.”

President Kington also raised concerns over the heated arguments put forth by the student groups that have been affected by this change in policy.

“The issue is really about the small percentage of student who are above age. The rest of them shouldn’t be drinking anyway. It worries me that [drinking]’s considered an integral part of what’s supposed to be service. I don’t see how being able to drink alcohol legally ties into the sense of why people would want to do it.”

Schecter, however, does not see any reason for the College to go above and beyond state law and maintains that the performance of participants on these trips has not been hampered by the fact that they thus far had the agency to drink.

“I had posed a question to Deanna [Shorb] about whether or not the service work during ReNew had decreased over the last years, and the answer to that was ‘no’, that the quality of work is still the same,” he said. “I think it’s quite overreaching for the college to be worried about being associated with students who are responsibly and legally having a fine social time at a bar.”

While administrators recognized that students had been conducting themselves responsibly so far, they felt that it was fair that all students, as representatives of the college, be subject to the same set of rules while on college-funded trips.

“[We’d been applying] different standards to different groups. There’s already a [sub-free] policy both on AltBreak and on all [varsity] athletic events. … If athletes have to be sub-free, it was a question of fairness as well,” said Kington. “The reason that they are sub-free is that we want to put the best face of the college forward. We do have a standard that allows a great deal of discretion on campus, but that’s the key: on campus. There’s a difference between behavior in your home and behavior when you’re a guest outside.”

As Kington said, the formulation of this policy is about two competing values of the College.  He emphasized the importance of “Valuing the support for and the belief in our students to make good judgment calls against a policy that’s about making sure that we go above and beyond the law to project an image about how deeply we believe in this institution.”

For now, a clear decision has been made and this policy is not open for debate.