All the MTV shows were right about one thing: alcohol plays some sort of role in the college experience. During a four year stay at college, it’s more than likely that in one way or another you will at the very least come in contact with or consume alcohol. Unfortunately, most college alcohol consumption is the less-than-legal type.
Due to strict underage drinking laws, some hold the idea that this promotes not only more dangerous drinking but a fear of reporting serious alcohol related issues as well. Instead of prioritizing safety, students are more likely to “wait out” dangerous issues such as alcohol poisoning or even sexual assault in fear of being caught and penalized. However, from medical, legal, and UMBC’s own disciplinary opinions this seems not to be the case on UMBC’s campus.
In regards to students being more prone to heavy drinking, Mickey Irizarry, Assistant Director of Health Education at UMBC’s University Health Services makes it amply clear that “it depends” because “they are not necessarily less harmful… it all depends on the amount that you are drinking.” For instance, “standard drink sizes, all three – beer, wine and liquor – in their correct sizes would be equal drinks.”
Even with this statistic, Irizarry goes on to explain that regardless of the type of drink, “alcohol may be more harmful for young adults or persons under 21 mainly because their brains are not fully developed at this point…and can disrupt brain growth and development and can impair memory functioning in the long run.”
When arguing the importance of getting caught versus reporting serious issues, Major Paul Dillon, Deputy Chief of Police at UMBC admits that there “are certainly pitfalls” but, “if a student is worried about getting a minor alcohol citation or a sanction from the University over the potential life of a fellow student they need to get their priorities straight.”
However, UMBC Police’s main priority is the students’ safety. To Dillon’s knowledge, “[UMBC Police] have never issued any alcohol citations during an alcohol poisoning call.” Even then, disciplinary action is not the first thing on the mind. Dillon goes on to say that he believes, “if a student drinks to the point of needing transport to a hospital they likely have an alcohol problem and need help.”
Even from a disciplinary aspect, UMBC values the well-being of the student more than anything else. Dr. Jeff Cullen, Director of Student Judicial Programs at UMBC explains that other than state laws, “UMBC does not have strict alcohol regulations” and “as police reports….[are] generated by staff, what [is seen] is that students are concerned about the health and well-being of their peers.” Even the Code of Conduct states that, “disciplinary action may be waived for students in violation of alcohol or other drug policies who responsibly report crimes of violence or hazing.”
Despite all this overwhelming evidence, it comes down to the individual. At UMBC, they make it clear from day one that this is a campus that cares. If you want to make the best decision about it then do not drink if you are underrage. However, we all make mistakes, but at the very least make it a no-brainer to prioritize your peers over self-preservation.