Policy change to keep alcohol out of residence

Residence officials who previously enforced Ontario liquor laws, allowing for alcohol consumption at the age of 19, will now ban alcohol entirely during Frosh Week

AMS Vice-President of University Affairs Kieran Slobodin says the new policy to ban alcohol in residence during Frosh Week will reform the drinking culture in residences.
AMS Vice-President of University Affairs Kieran Slobodin says the new policy to ban alcohol in residence during Frosh Week will reform the drinking culture in residences.
Journal file photo

A new University policy means alcohol won’t be allowed into residences during Frosh Week, even if the residents are of legal age.

Before the change, residence officials only enforced Ontario liquor laws, allowing 19-year-old students to drink in their dorm rooms. University officials said around 92 per cent of first-year students in residence are under the legal drinking age.

A briefing document presented to members of the Alcohol Working Group on July 12 gave 14 rationales for the new alcohol-free pilot project.

One bullet point stated the new policy would “clearly signal Queen’s commitment to reducing alcohol-related harm, particularly at a critical transitional time when the risk of alcohol misuse among 1st year students has been known to be high (with a tragic alcohol-related accidental death of one resident during Orientation week in 2010).”

After investigating the deaths of two first-year students, Coroner Roger Skinner submitted a report to University administrators recommending a review of campus alcohol policies.

Cameron Bruce, Sci ’14, died after falling out of a window on the sixth-floor of Victoria Hall residence in September, 2010. Habib Khan, ArtSci ’14, died after falling three stories through a skylight above Duncan McArthur Hall in December 2010.

Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Arig Girgrah said the new policy wasn’t spurred by the recent recommendation.

“The coroner’s report is just another piece of information that supports the work we’re already doing,” Girgrah said, adding that development on the policy started about a year ago.

It will start as a pilot program, with alcohol standards scheduled to return to normal after Frosh Week on Sept. 11.

Girgrah said residence staff will enforce the alcohol ban using existing discipline protocols. Dons and other residence facilitators typically impose educational assignments or fines for violating set residence rules, like underage drinking. All alcohol found in residences is confiscated and poured out.

“The focus is still going to be how we have conversations with students,” she said. “We’re not interested in punishing individuals. We’re not interested in simply fining people.”

Girgrah said the alcohol-ban initiative is one that was put in place at other Ontario universities including the University of Guelph last year.

Campus Security added a new position for the upcoming school year that will be designated to residences. Campus Security director David Patterson said the new supervisor will patrol inside and outside of residences and work to educate students on safety matters.

The briefing document submitted to the Alcohol Working Group reported that incoming residents and their parents will be informed of the Frosh Week policy via email and newsletters.

The document states that residences for graduate students will not be included in the new policies.

Another activity listed as a strategic action is to work with student government officials to develop “strategies for upper year students in support of a multi-pronged campus-wide action plan.”

AMS Vice-President of University Affairs Kieran Slobodin said the new alcohol ban will help reform residence culture that often surrounds alcohol consumption.

“Part of what encompasses this [policy] is culture change,” he said, adding that the success of the pilot should be based on student feedback. “Is drinking more of a choice that they feel ownership over?”

Slobodin said denying access to alcohol in residences poses some foreseeable safety issues in the broader Queen’s community. He said the AMS executive has identified the risks associated with first-year students looking for access to alcohol in the Student Ghetto.

“We’re worried that instead of drinking in a more comfortable and safe residence environment, first-years will go out into a city they don’t know and feel pressure from upper-year students.”

This article has been changed to reflect the following correction:

Arig Girgrah is Assistant Dean of Student Affairs. In the July 26 issue of the Journal, Girgrah was incorrectly attributed as the Dean of Student Affairs.

The Journal regrets the error.

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