New alcohol violation rules (VAPS) are in the works

On any weekend, you can find students staggering from barracks to barracks, evidence of the constant battle revolving around preventing the consumption of alcohol, especially in the Corps of Cadets.

A violation of the alcohol policy, or VAP, can involve anything from illegal consumption of alcohol, misrepresentation of age, presence of beverage containers to disorderly conduct according to the Norwich University Student Rules and Regulations (NUSRR)

The school can take disciplinary actions based on the regulations in the NUSRR that spell out a “two-strike policy,” meaning that if someone violates the policy a second time, they will be charged with a Class I infraction, which can lead to dismissal from the university.

The Student Government Association (SGA), however, has drafted a new revised alcohol policy that would shift to a fine and penalty system. It is in the draft stages but has backing from the Norwich administration.

The existing alcohol policy was developed years ago, and it was designed to persuade students not to drink, according to Frank Vanecek, the senior vice president of student affairs.

Nolan Fergusson, the Honor Chair and an SGA Senator, said the new alcohol policy currently being drafted seeks to improve on regulations that many agree don’t work. “The VAP policy as it stands would be replaced by a policy that works off a fine-based penalty system. After each offense, the student would be fined, and based on the severity of the offense, sent to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings as necessary. The fines are meant to cover those meeting costs,” said Fergusson.

There is also a plan to cover dorm damages that happen on campus related to alcohol use, Fergusson mentioned. He said those students for whom AA classes are deemed unnecessary would have their fines compiled in a “dorm damages” fund that would be drawn from at the end of each year to pay for the damages occurred over the course of the year.

The benefit of this policy, he said, is that the students would be inclined to do less damage to school property, and the cost of any repairs will be levied onto those students who would be providing fines for the new policy’s damages fund.

An anonymous survey was conducted to gather insight on student drinking experiences at Norwich, and the results indicate that for some, a damage clause is the least of their worries. A student named “Barry” thought any new policy desperately needs an amnesty clause. He shared an experience he had involving a call to 911 and almost getting caught with a VAP when he was helping an injured female.

“The main reason I left a girl who was severely injured was because I was worried about getting screwed for helping someone as a minor. Norwich needs to do something to address this mindset they’ve created on campus, whether it’s an amnesty clause in medical situations or something else,” he said. Fortunately, moments before he left the scene a senior arrived who was over 21 and was able to help the girl out.

“I understand why it’s not a wet campus but right now it’s too strict on people associated with violations,” said “Barry.”

Unhappiness among students about the current alcohol policy is easy to find. “The current system is based on hearsay (for reporting) and someone accused of violating the alcohol policy based on a report has to prove a negative. A VAP report essentially assumes guilt before innocence”, said Ben, who has confronted the VAP system first hand.

“I got hammered as a Rook with some of my Rook brothers and turned inside out into a sink. The only memories I have of that night are getting drunk, throwing up, and seeing one of my company’s platoon sergeants. My cadre kept the incident in-house and just made those involved clean everything for the rest of the semester,” he explained. Ben was lucky enough not to land himself on the tour strip where many students end up on their first offense.

“The first strike, the students going out there on the tour strip, doesn’t seem to be doing anything, why don’t we make a three-strike policy?” asked Vanecek. “I think they enjoy it (the tour strip).”

Indeed, cadets on the tour strip do not seem to be taking the discipline seriously, according to many students interviewed in an alcohol survey conducted. Often the tour strip is viewed as a badge of honor.

A student contributor to the survey named “Bob” doesn’t think a VAP policy is needed at all said, “Marching tours does not make cadets not drink. Most show up to tours drunk.”

He recounted an experience he had when he and friends were discovered drinking. “Immediately I knew we were screwed. We had two 40 racks, four handles, and other booze stocked up. One of the freshmen had a great idea to jump out the second-story window of Crawford above the Milano ballroom,” Some students will go to extreme measures to avoid disciplinary action regarding a violation, and “Bob’ was one of them, citing his escape.

“All of us go out the window and down the Milano ballroom overhang into a pile of fresh snow. We all then booked it as fast as we could up the centennial stairs to the White Chapel, where we dispersed in different directions. Not one of us who jumped out of the window got VAP’d. My buddy took the heat for us and got VAP’d. It was his second VAP in a week, and he ended up getting kicked out of the school.”

Another anonymous student also had a close brush with the alcohol policy. “We were all well into our cups when somebody spilled their drink on the floor. I left my room with a Guinness in hand to get a rag. Security was unlocking the CSMs (Command Sergeant Major) door right next to our rager. They said, ‘Nice Guinness.’ I quickly tucked and rolled into my room. I tossed the Guinness out the window and hopped out. I then went around and came back to the room. The security guard made everyone dump their liquor into the sink. Needless to say, five minutes later we were on our way to Shady’s for more booze,” he said.

With the existing stringent alcohol policies, many students are forced to “sneak around,” said Anthony Gustkey, a 24-year-old history major. Gustkey considers himself a social drinker and has five to ten drinks per week. Gustkey believes the existing VAP policy is “outdated” and only leads to more problems.

Ninety percent of the 45 survey participants believed that the alcohol policy should be changed. With a new policy being drafted to revise the Norwich trademark tour strip, student’s perceptions about receiving disciplinary action for an alcohol violation may change.

According to Vanecek, the new alcohol policy draft is still being looked over by the SGA. The senior staff and dean of students will have a look over the draft one more time. If everything is in order and the SGA agrees with what comments are given or changes made, the new policy will become official.

On the survey, one student submitted a suggestion for the new policy that is very close to the current SGA drafted policy. He proposed, “A ticket, with increasing cost for each subsequent VAP. Fifty dollars for the first VAP, $100 dollars plus class for second VAP, and possible Corp review board on third VAP.”

“I believe that the VAP policy should be lifted all together because it hurts more than it helps. But, I firmly believe that if there was a VAP policy, this is in my eyes the best way to go about it,” said Fergusson.

“We’ll let the SGA take a look at the final draft and give us a thumbs up or down, then if everything is positive, I’ll go to the President,” said Vanecek. If the President approves the changes the policy could be in place as soon as the fall semester of 2017.

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