VAP policy at Norwich undergoes changes

Norwich University has changed the Violation of Alcohol policy for the 2017-2018 school year due to previous ineffectual policies that failed to reduce the number of violations. According to Frank Vanecek, senior vice president for student affairs and technology, the policy was modified during the spring semester of 2017.

Vanecek said that those involved in changing the policy were the SGA (Student Government Association), the commandant’s office, university adjudicators, and finally the president. The policy had to go through various chains of command before being finalized to ensure that it was understood and fair.

“We wanted to rethink it to see if we could come up with a solution that might actually reduce the drinking. Based on the history and numbers of incidents, it didn’t seem to us that the punishments we were giving out were making much of an impact,” said Vanecek.

According to Norwich University Crime Statistics, there were 70 liquor law violations in 2014, 65 in 2015, and 73 in 2016. Most of those violations took place in the residence halls. There is no specification whether they took place in barracks or civilian dorms.

Norwich’s history with alcohol is more than violations on campus. In 2011, a vehicle carrying eight students crashed, killing one. The driver was intoxicated. In 1984, the Norwich Fire Brigade dispatched four cadets on a call. The driver was still inebriated from the party he attended the night before. He crashed the vehicle, killing all 4 occupants.

“I’ve spoken to a few (alumni) since last spring, and I threw it out there to hear what they think. They think it was a reasonable policy,” Vanecek said. “I didn’t get any negative comments from the alums,” During the 70’s, the legal age to drink in Vermont was 18, so it was common for cadets to drink to commemorate recognition, the night where freshmen recruits (rooks) officially become cadets. Most rooks are not of legal age, and typically are not allowed in legal drinking areas on campus.

Vermont state law says that an individual must be 21 years of age to consume alcoholic beverages. If a student is underage, they will also be reported to the Northfield police department for further investigation. Underage drinking can result in being sentenced to registering for TASP (The Teen Alcohol Safety Program.) Failure to register will result in a $300 fine and the possibility of a suspended driver’s license.

Norwich’s alcohol polices were not always so stringent. Before the legal drinking age was raised to 21, Vanecek speculates that there was no policy on campus aside from no underage drinking. Vanecek recounts hearing stories about cadets having kegs at the end of the hallway. The original policy issued marching tours, working tours, and CMC based on the severity of the violation. If the student was under the legal age, they were sent to alcohol counseling as well. Students had to pay for the counseling.

The new policy no longer constitutes marching tours (where cadets march in line on the tour strip with their rifle) or CMC (closed military confinement). The policy now issues fines based on the number of violations charged to the individual. Being charged a third-time warrants suspension.

The first charge is $250, along with the possibility of alcohol counseling which must be finished within 30 days from the day of being issued the punishment. The second charge is $500, along with alcohol counseling. Students have to still pay for counseling, along with their fines.

The toleration policy was also deliberated when the violation policy was being changed. Instead of being charged the same as violating, those who are found guilty of tolerating are now fined $250 in order to create a fairer policy for those caught tolerating. “Some students feel that is a fairer treatment to those tolerating,” Vanecek said.

Students who are unable or who refuse to pay the fine after the allotted thirty days will have a hold on their student account. Having a hold on their account then makes them unable to register for classes the following semester.

Anthony Marabello, 20, a junior health science major, from Princeton, Mass., was caught violating the alcohol policy his sophomore year. He was given the max sentence of 45 tours and 45 days of CMC (closed military confinement).

Marabello felt that CMC and tours were efficient in preventing future VAPs. Marabello also agreed with the new toleration policy because, “you weren’t the one drinking.”

Chase Hammer, 20, a junior management major from Wasilla, Alaska, feels otherwise. Hammer said that paying fines would be more effective in preventing more VAPs (violation of alcohol policy). Hammer said that once finances were involved as a punishment, he predicts that students will take the policy more seriously.

Hammer also said that the new policy gives a better judge of character in terms of those who are caught violating. “I think the situation will really define the kind of people in this corps, it’s based on their response when seeing alcohol.”

Angela Liu, 19, a junior international studies and criminal justice major, from Yucaipa, Calif. feels that CMC and tours are the way to prevent future VAPs. “A fine is nothing compared to a punishment that is more harsh, like CMC or tours.”

Typically, those in leadership positions in the corps will lose their jobs when charged with a VAP. Vanecek said that keeping a job or not would depend on the severity of the violation. “It depends on what we expect that person in that leadership to do. Some leadership positions require the leader to work with individual, if you are responsible for human beings, it’s a different story.”

Kevin Seery, 20, a senior history major, from Long Island, NY, said that CMC is not an effective policy for VAPs, especially for freshman due to their “stringent environment,” lifestyle. He also felt that alcohol counseling was not effective as well, since most students joke about it.

“Certain people might not think $250 is a lot of money, after a while nobody wants to pay $250,” Said Seery. “In the army, the way you punish people is you take their time or money. Marching tours took time, now they’re taking money.”

Vanecek used the example of finding an empty beer can in a student’s room as a situation for being VAP’d. Finding a beer can a second time under the old policy would warrant suspension. However, the new policy could mandate alcohol counseling as an option. A third can in a room would mandate suspension.

This new policy alleviates some of the harsher punishments put on more minor VAPs in an effort to make the system fairer in terms of the severity of the violation.

“It allowed us to put on other sanctions such as mandatory alcohol counseling. In addition to the increase in money, there are other things we can do,”

There are options to drink safely and legally on campus, such as the pub or at the cash bars at school sanctioned events. Students of age who drink at these events can do so safely and within the realms of the alcohol policy.

Norwich also has a safe rides program, which allows students to call for a ride back to campus on the weekends free of charge.

Whether or not the new alcohol policy will prove to be effective will take at least a semester.

Comments

  1. Steven P Robinson, NUCC 79 says:

    As I recall, back when I was a cadet (75 – 79), policy (whether written or tradition) was a moderate amount of alcoholic beverages were allowed in upperclass rooms. I usually had a case of beer, 6 bottles of wine and a bottle of whiskey, which I admit, was not all that moderate. But, I was never gigged for it.

    Also, the kegs in the barracks were not rumors, they were fact.

    Personally, I believe that if a young man or woman is old enough to enlist and serve in the military, they ought be able to imbibe.

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