By James Evans
Every year DeSales University releases their annual “Security and Fire Safety Report,” as dictated by the Clery Act. This report details all the crime and fire statistics for the past three school years, across all of DeSales’ campuses.
This year, the two most notable statistics were the increased number of liquor law and drug abuse violations that resulted in disciplinary referrals (not including arrests).
All told, there were 97 liquor law violations on main campus this past year. This is a record number of violations in recent, recorded history, dating back to the 20102011 school year. The previous high was 85 violations in 2012.
Likewise, the number of drug violations reached double digits for the first time in recorded history, with 19 violations in the 2016-17 school year. This is a five-fold increase in violations from the prior six-year average of 3.2 violations per year.
According to a DeSales news release from Tom McNamara, executive director of communications, on June 14, 2016, the freshmen class size rose 12 percent in the 2016-17 school year with a total of 506 deposits for its incoming class. While this may account for a portion of the increase, the prior six year average from 2010 to 2015 (52.3 alcohol violations per year), the number of violations increased by over 85 percent.
Conversely, the number of arrests overall, for both alcohol and drug offenses, are consistently down, with only one arrest in the 2016-17 school year. This is a tremendous decrease from the 2010 high of 21 drug arrests.
The reason this increase is both notable and worrisome is that, this year, college drinking has been criticized nationally, with many voices in the media expressing their concern for the substance abuse that is often associated with college social life.
Across the country, universities are revising rules and policies for their fraternities and sororities, especially after the deaths of a fraternity pledge at Penn State and that of a hazed Louisiana State University student.
In Bethlehem, a 17-year-old city ordinance is being reimplemented to potentially evict students in off-campus housing for persistent alcohol and drug violations. Allentown already has a similar provision in place, which calls for an eviction proceeding after three substance violations.
The rise in the number of incoming freshmen does not just create hurdles in regards to housing and class room size. It can also shape the policies of the school’s substance abuse departments, along with the enforcement of said policies by on and off-campus police.
In many of the notable cases across the country, it is often freshmen who are most at risk for dangerous (and potentially deadly) situations involving alcohol and drugs. These risks can be the lack of drinking tolerance or the peer pressure that an unfamiliar, new setting can create.
At Lafayette College this fall semester, a 19-year-old freshman, McCrae Williams, died from a head injury, as campus police responded to a call about a “student needing medical attention [that] had been drinking,” according to a Sept. 17 report in The Morning Call.
Lafayette College in Easton is comparable to DeSales in location and size, with a reported undergraduate population of 2,533 students.
The pressure is now on all members of DeSales University, students, faculty and staff, to make sure this increase in violations does not result in a devastating tragedy, like that of Williams.