Last week, the College released its 2005 Annual Security Report, complying with its obligation under the 1998 Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Police and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The report highlighted a few areas of interest, which, judging by the trend the office of Campus Police Services is setting in its broad crackdown on alcohol offenses, should only become more interesting when the 2006 report is released next year.
To begin, we’re pleased to see the College’s timely filing of its report as its relationship with the obligations of the Clery Act have been, to say the least, spotty in the past.
In 2001, the College faced fines when the federal Department of Education uncovered that it had failed to disclose three forcible sex offenses that had occurred in 1996 and 1997. Since then, the College has striven to comply more tightly with the stipulations of the act.
Last year, however, showed another breach of the College’s responsibilities under the legislation. In October, The Signal reported that Campus Police had lagged up to 40 days behind schedule in its reporting of incidents under the Clery Act. The federal law states that incidents must be reported in the publicly-available log within three days. After our article printed, Campus Police quickly got the log up-to-date.
What we see this year, however, troubles us. The report notes an increase in alcohol offenses – 707 for the year, up from 676 in 2004. Considering the dual efforts of Campus Police and the Ewing Township Police Department to crack down on underage drinking by the College’s students, we expect to see a significant spike in these numbers next year.
Only six weeks into the semester, we have heard an alarming number of instances of parties, on campus and off, getting broken up by law enforcement. More students are getting cited for underage drinking when they might have escaped in the past with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Ewing Township has started issuing steep monetary penalties for underage drinking, even threatening jail time if students are unable to pay.
While we sympathize with the pressure the College is under with the threat of a lawsuit at the hands of the parents of John Fiocco Jr., we can’t help but think that law enforcement might be overreacting to some extent.
Our college experience – our life experience – is formed, in some degree, by behavior that may be deemed by some as “irresponsible.” We have all engaged in these strange rituals of college, crammed and confused in hot basements or bars, mixing with strange people.
And yes, there will be victims. That is an inevitability. All the police in the world could not stop us. But what we learn is far more valuable, defining ourselves through our misguided adventures, pushing our limits so we know where they are.