A Look at Scripps’ Alcohol Policy

By Sasha Rivera SCR ’19 and Faith McDermott SCR  ’20

Scripps College has never been known for its party culture. This fifth of the 5C’s has legendary bread pudding, a killer coffee shop, and dorms filled with antiques and artwork valued at more than tuition. Needless to say, parties have never been Scripps’ forte. However, that seems to be changing. Crank open your window on a Saturday night and you’ll probably hear something a little unusual: the beat of Drake’s newest hit and the screams of intoxicated college Co-eds seem to be drawing closer. The noise isn’t coming from North Quad or Mudd. It’s coming from third floor New Hall, the Clark Courtyard, and your neighbors’ pregame.

Something has definitely shifted, and while some may enjoy the presence of party culture and others may not be so fond of it’s encroaching presence, the more interesting question to ask is: what exactly are the rules regarding alcohol on campus?

After some digging it’s become clear that these rules, whatever they may be, are not exactly easy to find. As of the 2017-2018 academic year the policy, according to The Guide to Student Life, states that the college, does not permit any violations of California law in terms of alcohol, such as underage drinking. Moreover, Scripps does not support the consumption of alcohol in circumstances where it negatively affects “personal conduct, health, academic achievement, or the interests of the Scripps community”. In addition, kegs are not allowed on campus unless they have been approved in advance by the Office of Student Engagement. However, one of the most striking parts of the statement is its first line:

“The College places the responsibility for observing state law upon each individual and expects each student to govern herself with standards of good taste and ethical judgment common to educated persons.”

Upon reading this the first question that comes to mind is: what exactly is the expectation “to govern herself with standards of good taste and ethical judgment common to educated persons.”? How would one decide what falls into the category of “good taste”? Isn’t taste something that’s subjective? Considering that Scripps prides itself on being a diverse community, one would expect that within this diversity there would be a wide range of tastes and preferences. Moreover, the language of the statement even comes across as victim-blaming by placing such a large focus on on the student’s personal behavior. Would these vague “standards of good taste” potentially be used against students? The additional gendering is also harmful to the many Scripps students who do not identify as women and use different pronouns. While the lack of clarity is frustrating, it’s the meaning this statement holds that is truly irksome. It prioritizes decorum over well being. It allows students the agency to abide by their own moral compass. However, if their actions do not align with this mythical value system Scripps fails to explain, there will be consequences.

The Guide to Student Life explains that Scripps’ Program Relating to the Prevention of Illegal Possession, Use, and Distribution of Drugs and Alcohol by Students will bring disciplinary penalties or educational interventions on students that violate these policies and conduct standards. In situations where alcohol or drug use pose immediate threats to a student’s health, such as alcohol poisoning, Scripps also has a “Safety First/Medical Amnesty Policy.” This means that a student who is receiving medical treatment and any students or organizations assisting this student in the process will not face judicial forms of punishment such as administrative review and mediation. This does not apply to other violations that may have been committed as a result of this substance abuse, such as violence and sexual harassment. The policy also does not prevent punishment from local or state authorities.

While it is important to note that Scripps does indeed have a medical amnesty policy, and that is step in the right direction, the rules are in many ways still setting students up to fail. If you don’t know the rules, how on earth are you supposed to abide by them? The vagueness of many of the statements adds to the confusion, and the information itself can be difficult to find. While Resident Advisor’s cover some of the basics in the very beginning of the year in residence hall meetings, specific details such as possible disciplinary measures are not given. In addition, before coming to Scripps, the first years must participate in an Alcohol Edu program that discusses the risks of alcohol consumption and the dangers of binge drinking. While the program gives many statistics and activities involving possible scenarios, information about policies specific to Scripps and the other 5C’s is notably absent.

Moreover, when asked about the alcohol policy, a former RA said that they really did not know much about it and in their training had not been very thoroughly instructed on their role in terms of enforcement. The fact that even a former RA is unsure about the details on Scripps’ alcohol procedures is appalling; if even they don’t know the information well, how should the rest of the student body be expected to know and adhere to the alcohol policies beyond the vague, confusing statements available on the Guide to Student Life?

Image Credit: Study Breaks

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