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Opinion | All students are ultimately responsible for knowing Miami's imperfect Code of Conduct

By Nathan Lombardi
On March 4, 2013

We have all heard of Miami's alcohol policy. Whether it came from our first-year year Resident Assistants, the orientation staff or a friend who recalled a story of being caught drinking in his or her dorm room, it's never a surprise. But what most students fail to recognize most of the time is that they are recalling the alcohol policy that they never fully understand until they find themselves in a situation that forces them to learn it for the sake of their own disciplinary records. I would be willing to bet that most first-years today, nearly three quarters through their first year at Miami, could still not tell you the difference from an intoxication and unauthorized use violation of the Student Code of Conduct.

Obviously I do not think that every first-year should be required and regulated to read the entire Code of Conduct upon their commitment to attend Miami, but shouldn't we all at least have some sort of sense about what we are undoubtedly going to be exposed to, and what could likely impact our records at Miami?

It is my belief that if students fully understood some clauses of the Student Code of Conduct they would be either less likely to engage in underage drinking or more outraged by the context of the offenses they could be found responsible of committing.

The Miami alcohol policy is not a complicated one. For starters, 2.1.E.1 of the Code of Conduct states that, "Any student who is intoxicated or exhibits negative behavior associated with intoxication after using alcohol" is in violation of Section 105A (intoxication) of the code. This is fairly straightforward, and does not have any sort of gray area, other than the fact that the university decides what "negative" behavior and "intoxication" can be.

Seeing that the university does not breathalyze students upon the "discovery" of an alcohol violation, the definition of "intoxication" is left up to the "discoverer."

Section 105B (Prohibited Use of Alcohol) is the second listed offense that students may be found responsible for at Miami. To be brief, this section covers everything from possessing any amount of alcohol, from a beer can to several kegs, and the consumption of alcohol under the legal age of 21.

This is the only section of the alcohol policy that adheres to "city and state laws, both in residence halls and in designated facilities..." The entire section is summed up in the final statement "Underage possession, consumption...or furnishing of alcoholic beverages to any person under legal age to prohibited."

The most interesting and perhaps, in my opinion, the most overstepping of all offenses in the Code of Conduct is the Complicity charge. Complicity is defined in an entirely separate section than the other alcohol offenses (2.1M).

The university defines complicity as "Conspiracy to commit, solicitation of another to commit, aiding or abetting the commission of, or attempting to commit" any of the offenses listed in the Code of Conduct.

However, in a second line the university includes "being present in a residence hall room OR with a group of persons where the prohibited use of occurring."

Now, according to State Law (The Ohio Revised Code) you need to advance the committing of a crime, or have a legal obligation to stop an offense in order to be found "complicit."

Now why has Miami included this new definition of complicity in the Student Code of Conduct?

In my opinion, Miami redefines complicity in an attempt to discourage drinking in the dorms, due to a lack of other successful methodology. But, in doing this redefining Miami has placed virtually every student in a "complicit" situation.

For example, if I were to go Uptown to Skippers to get a meal at 9 p.m. on a Friday, I would most likely be in the presence of the consumption of alcohol. This may not seem like a problem; however, if one of the "consumers" at Skippers was under the age of 21 and caught, I could technically be cited for complicity.

Since the Code of Conduct says "being present in a residence hall room OR with a group of persons where the prohibited use of occurring" it allows for virtually any location that enforces the 21-year-old drinking age. The key word is OR. Now obviously this an unrealistic stretch of the Code of Conduct, but shouldn't the rules that can have a significant effect on not only a massive financial investment but the four years that determine the start of our careers be subject to strict scrutiny?

Furthermore, let's say this complicity wording was to be applied to the Ohio Revised. If someone were the witness to a crime, by being in the presence of said crime, they could technically be "complicit" in that crime. It is an extreme stretch and walks the "what if" line quite far but I think it's an interesting paradox.

Now why is Miami allowed to do to this redefining of complicity? The simple fact of the matter is that when you are "found responsible" for complicity at Miami you go through a university-run judicial review process, not a criminal proceeding. In some cases of more "severe" offenses this can help students, but in the most minor cases of "offenses" it can do more harm than a legal proceeding.

So if you have made it this far I applaud you, for you now know more than the average student at Miami concerning alcohol policy. The Code of Conduct may not be 100 percent perfect, but it is the ultimate responsibility of the students who are subject to it that determines its effectiveness.

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