Alcohol rampant at area schools

Colleges and universities in the Rochester area, including Geneseo, are riddled with drug and alcohol-related incidents, according to a recent Rochester Democrat and Chronicle report.

The Democrat and Chronicle reported on Feb. 10 that 12 area colleges tallied a combined 2,181 liquor incidents and 221 drug incidents on campus in 2006.

In 2006, Geneseo reported 256 on-campus liquor law violations; up from 204 in 2005 and 200 in 2004. The number of reported violations has been on the rise since 2002 when it was just 141, but topped 200 in 1999 and 2000. The vast majority of these violations were in the form of judicial referrals rather than arrests. Data for 2007 has not yet been compiled.

Denying that the year-to-year numbers indicate any solid trend, University Police Assistant Chief Scott Kenney said that the number of judicial referrals reported for alcohol violations is not a very good measure of how much underage drinking actually occurs on campus.

Kenney explained that in some years, one or two raids can result in markedly elevated numbers of referrals, making it difficult to compare one college to another in a meaningful way. Kenney believes that it is far more important to focus on clear, consistent enforcement coupled with education than to dwell on the numbers.

He noted, however, that increased police activity in the village and the filling of empty police officer positions over the past few years may be factors that contributed to the recent rise in reported alcohol violations.

"Alcohol is still the biggest issue that we face on college campuses," said Dean of Students Leonard Sancilio.

While Sancilio agreed that the number of annual referrals does not always correspond to a rise or decline in illegal activity, he said that the severity of the reported violations is more significant than the raw numbers. He also noted that while the college cannot ever condone underage drinking, it is virtually impossible for any college to totally eliminate the society-generated problem.

Students generally agreed with Sancilio.

"It's an independent, cultural thing," said freshman Timothy Lehey. "They already have all the Late Knight stuff going on and it doesn't really deter anyone."

A statement about Geneseo's official position on alcohol use, written by Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio, can be downloaded from the Student and Campus Life section of the Geneseo Web site. The document prohibits possession of "beer balls, kegs, or other large-quantity common containers, drinking games and contests," along with on-campus advertising of events or activities that promote the use of alcoholic beverages.

Students are first officially warned about the harmful consequences of alcohol abuse at freshman and transfer orientation, and the message is reinforced each semester in residence halls at floor and hall meetings. Additionally, the college offers a wide range of non-alcoholic recreational events for students on weekends; Student Association will not endorse or sponsor events at which alcohol will be available.

A full description of the disciplinary response to underage drinking and abuse of alcohol can be found in the student handbook.