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MU to handle off-campus citations

OESCR to discipline students for noise and litter violations

By Marissa Stipek, Opinion Editor

Off-campus students who receive noise or litter citations will soon be subject not only to sanctions from the Oxford Police Department (OPD), but also from Miami - perhaps as early as next semester.

The Off-Campus Partnership workgroup of Miami's Alcohol Task Force is creating a new initiative, in which off-campus noise and litter citations will be forwarded to the Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution (OESCR). The Alcohol Task Force was created in 2014 to better understand high-risk student drinking behaviors and evaluate potential interventions to cut back on high- risk alcohol consumption.

Upon a first offense, students will receive a letter. Following the second citation, all residents of the home will be required to attend a meeting with university and Oxford representatives of

the Student-Community Relations Committee (SCRC) for a "developmental conversation." After the third citation, the incident will be reported to OESCR and charged with a violation of the code of conduct.

On Friday, Nov. 13, members of the workgroup met with the Interfraternity Council President Zach Scheid and Associated Student Government (ASG) President Joey Parizek, as well as off-campus student senators to discuss the proposal. This is not hugely different from the current protocol, said Jen O'Brien, Miami's director of Off-Campus Outreach.

For the past 10 years, Miami has received copies from OPD of the noise and litter citations as a matter of public record - they just haven't penalized offenders.

"Those citations will continue to be forwarded to Miami, so that's not a change," O'Brien said. "But this time, after the first citation, the residents of the house would receive a letter saying 'Hey, we know that there was a citation here, there are community standards that you need to be aware of.'"

This letter would serve as a method to discourage students from continuing disruptive off-campus behavior. The second violation would result in a mandatory meeting with the SCRC. If students received a third citation - a situation this stricter disciplinary process is meant to prevent - they would be subject to sanctions determined by OESCR.

"It would be an OESCR process from then on," O'Brien said. "We have some ideas of how that would look, although it's not explicit right now."

The additional sanctions will serve as one way to accomplish a broader goal of the Off-Campus Partnership workgroup, which is to reduce the number of front yard parties overall.

Front yard parties specifically pose a few problems - anyone, including underage students and even strangers, can wander in; they are highly visible, which contributes to a distorted perception that "everyone" is drinking; and the trash they leave becomes an eyesore for the community.

"Miami's different in a real significant way," said Mike Curme, Dean of Students. "We have four or five surveys that look at binge drinking rates among the students. And Miami's binge drinking rates are higher than the national average of universities by a significant degree."

Each year, incoming first-years take an AlcoholEdu survey, which asks them about their drinking behaviors. Based on data from the incoming class of the 2014-2015 academic year, a larger percentage of Miami students consider themselves light/moderate and high risk drinkers than students at over 500 other U.S. schools.

"In the peculiar concentrated geography of Oxford, where you have multiple front yard parties that might be going on at one time, it does have the impression . . . that deviant drinking is more common than it actually is," Curme said.

O'Brien invited students to voice their ideas about the proposal.

"It's currently in draft form," O'Brien said of the new process. "It hasn't been submitted at this point … so if there are things that we're concerned about, or worried, this is a great time to hear those concerns."

Members of the committee said they do not yet know exactly how offenses would be marked on official records, but it would be different than more extreme offenses like underage drinking. O'Brien said the offense would be handled "on an appropriate level."

OPD Sergeant Denny Colyer clarified how the charges would look from a legal perspective as well.

"We have what would be a misdemeanor citation ... and even on that, as far as your record, if it's a minor misdemeanor, that doesn't count as an arrest," Colyer said. "So when you're filling out applications and you're asked, 'have you ever been arrested?' a minor misdemeanor doesn't count."

Colyer said this new protocol is not intended to strictly punish students - rather, the idea is to be developmental and teach a lesson.

Another point made at the meeting is why all students in the house would receive the citation - this differs from the current protocol, in which the citation is issued to an individual.

This is to prevent different residents of a single house from "trading off" who accepts the blame, O'Brien explained. Under the new system, everyone will be accountable.

"This is a way to track the problem houses," said Bob Blackburn, Oxford resident and member of City Council. If there is a discrepancy, such as one resident being out of town when the citation is issued, or otherwise not responsible, that can be discussed during the appeals process.

The committee is still finalizing other details, like how the violation would be denoted on students' records, and whether the time frame for accruing three strikes will be a semester, an academic year or a calendar year.

"What we're thinking is [starting] next semester with portions of it, like maybe the letter and the meetings," O'Brien said. "So we have time to tell students, 'this is a change in policy, prepare yourselves.'"