The Dangers of Drinking on College Campuses

College brings with it a host of experiences for young people, some more beneficial than others. While many students are able to receive a world-class education and expand their knowledge base and understanding, many also experiment with destructive behaviors like drug use and excessive drinking.

While most students tend to consider a bad hangover to be the worst possible side-effect of a night of heavy drinking, there are actually a number of serious and potentially life-altering consequences to binge drinking and underage drinking on college campuses:

  • Death – According to a study in the Annual Review of Public Health, approximately 1,825 college students (ages 18-24) die in alcohol-related incidents, including drunk driving accidents
  • Drunk Driving (physical consequences) – Alcohol significantly impair’s a driver’s ability to safely operate his or her vehicle, exposing everyone on the road near a drunk driver to the risk of serious injury or even death in a drunk driving accident.
  • Drunk Driving (legal consequences) – In addition to the risk of injury or death that accompanies drunk driving, some students will make the decision to get behind the wheel after drinking, putting them at risk of being charged with an alcohol-related driving offense, like a DUI or DWI. Students face school-related penalties, like suspension and even expulsion, and more serious legal penalties. In some instances, students may need to secure the assistance of a DUI lawyer or another legal representative to help them avoid life-altering consequences, including overwhelming fines and jail time.
  • Assault and Injury – In the same Annual Review of Public Health study mentioned above, it is noted that 696,000 individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 have been assaulted by another student who was intoxicated.

In addition to the above-mentioned risks which directly threaten the lives and physical well-being of college students, there are additional educational risks associated with excessive drinking. Students who drink too much or too frequently often have difficulty keeping up with school work, maintaining good grades, and unfortunately, some may even fail out of school as a result.

Most Common On-Campus Criminal Offenses

Most college students want to believe that their college campus is a safe, secure environment where they are free to learn and have fun without the threat of serious danger. Unfortunately, crime on college campuses is a reality that far too many students have to contend with. The Office of Postsecondary Education of the U.S. Department of Education collects annual information on a variety of crimes that occur on college campuses each year. While these reports include all alleged crimes, the statistics are shocking in some respects.

At public, 4-year (or more) institutions with 10,000+ students, the most commonly reported criminal offense in recent years was burglary, with 6,712 burglaries reported in 2011, down from 7,241 the year before. These ratings are for on-campus events only, so these numbers do not reflect burglaries or alleged burglaries that take place in off campus student housing, like apartment complexes.

A far distant second to burglaries, motor vehicle theft is the second most reported criminal offense on college campuses of the above-mentioned size, with 1,349 reported motor vehicle thefts in 2011, up from 1,336 in 2010.

Finally, the third most commonly-reported criminal offense on college campuses is forced sexual assault, with 1,153 reported in 2011, which is a slight increase from 1,038 in 2010.

Depending on the offense at hand, crimes that occur on college campuses can be dealt with in a number of ways. For more serious criminal offenses like those listed above, non-campus law enforcement is often involved, and most of the individuals accused of these crimes will need to secure the assistance of a criminal lawyer to defend them.

However, for some smaller offenses, individuals may not need to secure outside legal representation, as the matter may be dealt with on-campus. Many large universities have student courts that deal with on-campus offenses, and for some offenses, students will simply represent themselves in front of this organization if charged with an offense.

Some crimes on campus are more severe and require higher authority. Campus police and courts can only handle cases to an extent.If your case needs more attention, you or your peer may need to speak with a lawyer about your legal options and the upcoming steps to seek out compensation. A criminal attorney from your state may be able to answer any questions that may arise from your situation. Seeking out the legal guidance for these type of situations may be helpful.

 

On-Campus Disciplinary Actions

There are a variety of offenses and violations that can occur on a college campus, with varying degrees of severity. For more severe crimes and offenses, off-campus law enforcement frequently must be called in to handle the incident, resulting in criminal charges against the accused individual(s).

However, for a wide variety of offenses that take place on colleges and universities across the U.S., the schools themselves have a system in place to deal with violations of school code, rules, or honor codes.  Some schools have a disciplinary committee in place, often comprised of both students and teachers or administrators, while others have a completely student-run Student Court that will rule on offenses that take place on campus and issue penalties to those accused.

In 2011, various alcohol-related violations were the most frequently dealt with on-campus crime, with 81,541 incidents reported at public, 4 year (or higher) institutions with 10,000 or more students. Depending on a school’s rules, many of these cases will be dealt with internally, and outside law-enforcement and criminal lawyers will not be involved in the case at all.

However, for more serious offenses, like drug-related offenses, incidents might be dealt with on campus, by outside law enforcement officials, or by both. For campuses the same size as those referenced above, there were 21,689 drug abuse incidents reported in the U.S. in 2011 that resulted in on-campus disciplinary action.

Much less common of an on-campus offense was possession of a weapon, with only 423 incidents reported in 2011.

While alcohol intoxication, drug use, and weapons possession can all pose potential dangers to the safety and well-being of college students, many universities are taking aggressive action against students accused of these actions, exposing some to state or federal legal action, while others to on-campus penalties, including suspension or expulsion.

 

 

Enhanced Safety Measures on Some College Campuses

Because of the surprisingly high number of incidents like aggravated assault and sexual assault that take place every year on college campuses across the United States, many university officials are implementing various safety measures to try and keep students, faculty, and staff members safe on and around college campuses.

Different schools have employed different measures, all with varying degrees of success. Some schools have hired additional campus police officers to patrol campuses, hoping that their presence alone will be enough to prevent and deter crimes from taking place. Often, these individuals can be found riding bicycles or driving golf carts around campus to make their presence as widespread as possible.

Other universities have implemented alert systems, or emergency phones, throughout campuses, giving students and other individuals on-campus a quick way to contact authorities if anything goes wrong. In most instances, these systems are small posts that resemble light posts or payphones and are scattered throughout highly-trafficked areas on a college campus. If ever someone feels unsafe or notices an incident occurring, they can simply pick up the phone at one of these stations and be immediately connected to on-campus law enforcement.

Some schools have also implemented a safe ride program that primarily serves individuals who find themselves walking alone at night. With these services, students who find themselves working late and are worried about walking home alone can call the safe ride phone line and get a ride from their location to their dorm room for free. Usually, they are picked up in a golf cart that is driven either by a campus police officer or a volunteer if these programs are student-staffed.

Unfortunately, despite these safety measures, incidents of assault, sexual assault, burglary, and various drug offenses remain shockingly high on college campuses. When the measures above fail to prevent crime from occurring, perpetrators often find themselves in need of a criminal lawyer, as the charges against them include proposed penalties that extend far beyond school-ordered penalties, even when the accused individuals are students. To make sure that the recent graduate you may be hiring isn’t a drug offender, make sure to conduct a pre-employment test.

Safety Questions You Should Ask on a College Visit

Visiting college campuses is an exciting time for prospective students and parents alike, and these short trips can be incredibly influential in a student’s decision to attend or not attend a given school. In addition to learning about a school’s academic reputation and extracurricular opportunities, you should be sure to learn as much as you can about campus safety and crime any time you visit a school.

There are a variety of ways you can secure the information you need, and a number of different parties you should approach in order to get this information. Likely, you will be taking a tour during a campus visit. While student tour guides will likely not have much in the way of concrete safety statistics, you can ask these guides important questions like:

  • Do you feel safe? Likely, this student will be instructed to give a positive answer, but you should be able to judge whether or not the student is being truthful or not based on their facial expression, body language, and the type of answer they give.
  • Have there been any major security or safety problems while you’ve been a student here? By asking a direct question like this, you are more likely to get a specific answer out of your tour guide as opposed to asking something like “Is this campus safe?”
  • How are infractions handled? If a crime or other dangerous incident occurs on campus, how is the incident handled? Will the accused individual be turned over to local law enforcement, or is the matter dealt with on-campus. Will the accused individuals need a criminal lawyer for their defense, or will they represent themselves in a student court? If the answer is the latter, even for serious crimes, you might think twice about the overall safety on campus, as there may not be much of a deterrent for more serious crimes if they will only be handled by school-associated groups.

Additionally, you should stop by the campus police’s office to get more concrete statistics about the safety of the school. When visiting this office, you should ask questions like:

  • What are the most commonly reported crimes on campus? Also ask for concrete numbers of reported crimes.
  • What measures have been taken recently to improve safety on campus? If there haven’t been recent improvements made to increase safety on campus, this could indicate that safety is not a top priority, or it could indicate that the campus is sufficiently safe. You will need to compare the answer to this question against the data you receive from campus police on reported crimes.
  • How often do you receive calls reporting criminal activity on campus? Additionally, see if you can get comprehensive records of reported crimes on campus for the past year.

By asking questions like these on every college visit you make, you can make sure that you find not only a good social and academic fit, but also a school that values the safety of its students.

Most Crime-Riddled Schools in the U.S.

In June of 2012, The Daily Beast put together a list of the most crime-riddled colleges in the United States, looking at data from 2008 to 2010 that included the school’s enrollment, numbers of murders, negligent homicides, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, car thefts, and arson occurring at these schools.

Schools from the east coast to the west coast made their way onto this list, with schools in both extremely large cities and smaller, rural areas making their way into the top 25.

Topping the list was the University of Alabama, Huntsville. In the years cited, the school had an enrollment of 7,614 and 3 murders, 80 burglaries, 8 car thefts, and 10 aggravated assaults. Joining the University of Alabama in the top five were Johnson & Wales University (Providence, RI), the University of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA), Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL), and the University of Central Arkansas (Conway, AR).

With a recent shooting at a Houston-area community college, schools across the country are taking steps to reduce crime on their campuses and keep students safe. In fact, some states, like Texas, are considering changing their policies to allow either faculty members to carry weapons on campus or to have armed guards at schools in an attempt to deter gun violence, or end an incident should one begin. Although guns are not allowed on college campuses at the current time, a bill might come before the Texas legislature this session that could change this rule.

Taking action against the parties responsible for committing crimes on college campuses can be a difficult endeavor, as responsibility can lie with several different parties. In many cases, universities have their own disciplinary systems in place to deal with crimes committed by students, and students represent themselves when accused of dangerous or criminal offenses. In other instances, if a student-committed crime is particularly egregious, or if the perpetrator of a crime on campus is not a student, that individual will usually be turned over to the authorities and will have to contact a criminal lawyer for their defense.

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Larry Benneth+