Evolved alcohol policy

NU’s alcohol restriction has evolved into a policy over time into what it is now for a series of reasons, according to staff and older NU rules and regulations.

The first printed restriction of alcohol, referred to as “spirituous liquor”, was in the Internal Regulations section of the school’s 1837 Prospectus, which was an older version of the Student Rules and Regulations. Before, the Internal Regulations of Prospectus only vaguely restricted cadets from conducting actions contrary to, “true principles of correct military discipline.”

Although alcohol possession and consumption on campus was restricted in the 1837 Prospectus, there was no defined punishment meant specifically for violation of the alcohol restriction until the later 20th century versions of NU’s Rules and Regulations. Such punishments included“10 direct tours and 15 days of Closed Military Confinement (CMC),” according to the 1970’s NU Rules and Regulations.

Changes to the school’s alcohol policy occurred after 1984, according to Vice President for Enrollment Management of Student Affairs Frank Vanacek, when four cadets, who were part of the Norwich Fire Brigade, died in a car accident while responding to a fire. “They died because the Cadet driving the truck was intoxicated from the previous night’s party,” Vanacek said, “from that point on, the university starting taking a much more serious stance.”

Since 1984, the school’s alcohol policy has evolved and the term “Violation of the Alcohol Policy” (VAP) was later introduced, according to Vanacek. Changes have been made to the VAP punishments over time, according to Chief of Security Michael Abraham. “It used to just be, you get VAP’d, you get a punishment, and then it started changing to where there were suspensions,” Abraham said. Changes still include tours, community service, and suspensions, but later grew to a possible loss of an ROTC contract for commissioning for contracted students.

The loss of an ROTC contract as a VAP punishment is a controversial issue that is regularly discussed for modification, according to Vanacek. “A complete change of life policy, that’s traumatic,” Vanacek said, “but, the student made the decision to drink.” Certain students feel that the VAP punishments are too inflicting. “Under aged drinking is illegal, so there is nothing they can do about that,” said Nolan Fergusson, 19, a sophomore electrical and computer engineering major, “however, the VAP-ing of people overage and on campus is not understandable. It doesn’t make any sense in my opinion.”

Despite the heightened risk for alcohol consumption and possession on campus, students are still caught violating the alcohol policy. “People just want to get away,” Fergusson said, “you start drinking (and) it just pretty much takes you away from the strains and stresses of the day.” School officials state that it will always be recurring issue. “There’s drinking, there always has, there always will, but what we are not going to do here at Norwich is we are not going to turn our back on that issue,” said Vanacek.

Images from old school yearbooks and alumni stories often associate NU with alcohol consumption despite the school’s restriction of alcohol since 1837. “The Norwich University Corps of Cadets is still here today and we used to have keg parties all the time,” Fergusson said. Most alcohol consumption on campus was legal in the past as the age of 18 once was the legal drinking age in Vermont, according to Dean of Student Life Martha Mathis. “When you hear from those alumni who remind us of their time here, you might want to ask when they graduated,” Mathis said, “if they’re from the 80’s back, then it was a different time.” Despite the popularity of alcohol in older times, most alumni agree with the current alcohol policy, according to Vanacek. “I don’t have a lot of alums, who come to me saying our VAP policy is too extreme, I don’t have that,” Vanacek said. “The good ‘ol days and all the fun had a lot of consequences, significant consequences. There have been a lot of deaths over the decades from alcohol.”

“We’re concerned about alcohol consumption, because we’re concerned about the safety of our students,” Vanacek said, “We want them to live, we want them to learn, we want them to graduate, (and) we want them to be great Norwich alums.”

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