September 9, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 6  

Front Page >> News > More under age students not a big headache


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More under age students not a big headache

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

The percentage of students at Western below the legal drinking age has quadrupled this year, which could pose several problems for many services around campus.

According to University Students' Council VP-student affairs Matt Huether, 15 per cent of the student body was under 19 years old last year. That number, thanks to the double cohort, has ballooned to 60 per cent this fall.

When asked what the USC had done to prepare for the influx of young'uns, Huether noted Orientation Week at Western has actually been dry since 2000.

If O-Week can be taken as an indication of the year to come, this could be a quiet year on the underage alcohol abuse front.

"Actually, there were [fewer] underage drinking incidents this year than last year and more have happened outside the scope of [O-Week] programming," Huether said, pointing to a handful of Wet/Dry Card revocations that occurred in non-O-Week events at The Wave and The Spoke.

Associate vice-president of housing & ancillary services Susan Grindrod echoed the sentiment: "Orientation Week went very well and all the people involved should be very pleased," she said.

"For the most part, if a person's underage and they've been drinking, and the police have reason to speak to them, they can expect to be charged," said Elgin Austen, interim director of Campus Community Police Services.

"[As well], if [underage students] sneak into a bar, either by using improper identification or if they breach the Wet/Dry Card contract, they can expect to be charged," Austen added.

On the front lines, however, it may be harder to enforce the rules. Though Grindrod pointed to the multi-stepped discipline program as an option in cases of alcohol abuse, she also said dons cannot go from room to room searching for contraband.

Bruce Griffen, director of residence and hospitality services at Queen's University, explained a similar policy in residences there. "It's not a different policy [this year]," he said. "We're not in the enforcement business. We're not using master keys to enter student rooms if we suspect underage drinking, unless there's some [danger to the resident].

"This week's been no different than any other Frosh Week. In fact, there have been fewer incidents," Griffen added.

Nadia Didomenico, six middle don in Saugeen-Maitland Hall, discussed how to keep the residents safe.

"At floor meetings, we talk about being responsible and drinking responsibly - whether you're of age or not. It's difficult to stop [underage drinking] and we can't police it, but if [the Student Emergency Response Team] is called, for example, we'll take [disciplinary] action," Didomenico said.



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