Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Yellow Wood Commission

Campus Life

Meeting of March 11, 2010

Posted on March 11, 2010


PRESENT: Raza Amin '12, Co-Chair Gabe Amo '10, SGA President; Craig Andrade, Associate Dean of Health and Wellness; Tim Barker, Professor of Physics/Astronomy; Abigail Earle '11, Charles Furgal, Director of Public Safety; Co-Chair Andrea Holden, Assistant Director of Student Life; Jim Mancall, Associate Dean of Studies for 1st and Sophomore Years; Kenneth Monroe '12, Rebecca Pye, Campus Coordinator; Alyssa Sands '11, Alexandra Schibanoff '12, John Sutyak, Associate Director of Athletics

OTHERS: Janith Hancock, Adm. Associate, Dean of Students Office

The meeting of the Yellow Wood Commission opened at 3:35pm. As the members arrived they were asked to share 3-5 short-term goals or initiatives.

The group discussed what is useful to the work of the Commission and if specific detail is needed or if a broader overview of the proceedings would be sufficient. Each approach was liked by some members, and it was thought that it should be considered how the records are to be shared with others. Perhaps only the meeting highlights would be placed on the website instead of the complete minutes. The group also decided that the minutes would be recorded and kept only until they have been transcribed and approved.

The events of the weekend of March 6-7 were then discussed. Several Wheaton students were arrested for underage drinking at an off-campus residence. The renter of the condo was also arrested for allegedly supplying alcohol to people under 21 and for alleged drug possession. Photos of the residence were taken by the police and published in THE NORTON MIRROR. The treatment of the students by the police was a concern expressed by several members of the commission. Some of the questions raised were if the police acted illegally by entering the condo, if the rights of the students arrested had been violated, if some of the students at the condo in danger, and why did the police not tell the students present what they were doing? It was explained that if the police acted in an illegal manner, the cases would not be allowed to be presented to the court. Concern still remained about the rights of students in situations such as this. The thought was expressed that students feel they may be treated differently by the Norton police than they are by Wheaton's Public Safety Department. The concern was expressed that perhaps Public Safety is doing students a disservice by not being as strict when they interact with students as the local police would be. Following further discussion, it was suggested that perhaps bringing someone to campus soon from the court, such as an assistant district attorney, to participate in a campus forum to address legal themes and the rights of students and others may be helpful. Issues such as how the law is interpreted, what the boundaries are that students may find helpful to understand, and what individuals may need to know if they are involved in similar situations could be explored.

Two major concerns that surfaced included 1) off-campus drinking and 2) student rights when they may be in violation of the law. Concern was also raised that some students feel it is their right to drink when they come to college even though it is in conflict of the law if they are under 21. It is the image they have of what students do at college. How is the culture then reconciled with the law?

The discussion then moved on to the "Call to Action" article. One member suggested setting up a model about what would work to include the overwhelming research and long-term strategies over the short-term quick fix. Another member expressed that all the strategies listed in the article were probably possible to do. Of particular importance was the "safe rides" program. Another member felt that consistently enforcing disciplinary actions when policy violations occur may need to be included in the discussions. Also, when considering our alcohol policy, we may need to be mindful of our community and involve the community in these discussions of our work, which does impact the community (both Wheaton and the town of Norton).

How do we recognize the relationship we have with the community? Suggestions included working with the package stores and their owners to make sure customers are carded appropriately and the marketing of alcohol is such that students are not targeted through lower pricing at various times during the year. It is important that the message is the same for families and students so there is no conflict of interest. The area package stores are sent a letter each summer about our alcohol policy and also may request a list of all the students who are over 21. Having conversations with certain stake holders in the community, families and small groups could have a large impact within the community.

Another strategy discussed was to inform entering students and their families of the college's alcohol policy before they arrive for Orientation. Some feedback is available on the effectiveness of the alcohol programs held during Orientation but it is not timely. This past January, all entering students were asked to take part in the MyStudentBody alcohol course on line that went through the rules and regulations comparing what the law is and what the expectations are. This encouraged them to learn how to take care of themselves and also what they should know about being around alcohol. However, we don't know how effective this may have been. Perhaps in the future all freshmen will be encouraged to take part in this or a similar program.  Programs like this have been successfully offered at other schools. Reinforcement of our alcohol policy soon after students arrive on campus through group discussions or forums is equally important so that students are aware of the law and where the college stands. This may help give the students a reference point.

Three issues discovered in the report that should be part of the Wheaton discussion:

1. Conducting marketing campaigns to correct student misperceptions about alcohol use. This may be something that could be done around Spring Break. There seems to be a mismatch between what students say they do and what they do. Information has been made available to the community by various student groups as well as the Dean of Students Office in past years.

2. The safe rides program has been used by other schools. Would it be possible to have it at Wheaton? Would there be money available for such a program? We could perhaps look at other schools and see how their programs are funded, how vans are purchased, are students employed to operate the vans, etc. There are also taxi services readily available that may be used.

3. The challenges involved in changing Wheaton's alcohol policy discussion. The alcohol culture may be a critical component to address.

What are the challenges to address about the culture?
. Off-campus houses
. Culture on campus
. How to have the conversation among students
. Conversations are better when the conversations are between students

Try to educate the student population on how to be safe on and off campus and treat them as adults:
. Letting students know they can call for help if they are in trouble.
. Making sure people are being respectful when things happen.
. Helping students to begin to see how to take care of themselves and watch out for each other when they are faced with a situation in which someone may die or get seriously hurt

What the alcohol culture really is at Wheaton needs to be identified. The perception is that everyone at Wheaton is drinking and that is not the case. To change we have to know the culture and give the community a clearer picture of what the culture actually is. Offering opportunities for discussions of what is Wheaton's alcohol culture and what do we want to do about it also could be made available to students.

Tiers and Level of Strategies: alcohol affects the individual, the individual and their friends, their community and the outer community.

FISH Exercise:

The Commission then split into the groups that were established at the retreat on March 5. They were asked to identify what causes do we have the potential to control and what causes have the most impact. Each member was given a number of chips to place on those causes that are most important. The data was collected and will be shared with the group electronically.

Increasing the time for the meetings from 1 and ½ hours to 2 hours was briefly discussed. It was determined that several members would not be able to extend their time, however. The members also felt that all the agenda items may not be able to be addressed at a given meeting. Development of a time-line for the semester is planned to be discussed by the co-chairs at their next meeting because there is so much to address.

A brief review of the goals and initiatives that were collected at the beginning of the meeting was given. This information will also be shared with the group. The meeting closed at 5pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Janith L. Hancock
Administrative Associate
Office of the Dean of Students

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