Students Seek Community Dialogue on College Handbook Policy

The Ramapo College Administration enforced new policy changes to the Student Handbook this semester.

According to the new regulations, underage students that are caught consuming alcohol at a party or social gathering and are transported to the hospital are subject to pay no less than a $400 fine. Each of the students hosting the event will be fined $500, suspension of residence privileges for at least one semester and possible suspension from activity privileges, along with parental notification. These penalties are all under the guise, of course, that the individual is a first-time offender. Repeat offenders are hit with more exorbitant fines and stricter social and residential penalties.

It is important to note that colleges such as Rutgers, Rowan, TCNJ and many others do not have fines set up the way Ramapo does. Out of the schools listed, none of them penalize repeat offenders as harshly as Ramapo does to its first time offenders for hosting a party.

In my initial research about the issue, I reached out to Director of Student Conduct Kathleen Hallissey, who declined to respond for an interview, instead forwarding it to the college public relations department.

I also contacted President Mercer with questions and concerns, and to my understanding, he wrote an article addressing the new policy himself.

As students, we feel that we should have a role in some of the daily operations of Ramapo College. This role would consist of the ability to reason with the administration on some of the school’s policies and come to an agreement that is fair, safe and economically efficient for all.

This is one of the reasons why the Student Government Association (SGA) was created at Ramapo. However, after speaking with SGA President Lauren Fuhring earlier this week, I was informed that neither she nor the rest of the SGA was notified or consulted with about any of the recent policy changes this semester.

What is the purpose of having an organization that supposedly legislates with the Ramapo administration on these exact types of issues, if their voices are silenced and their powers not utilized?

I am not an advocate for underage drinking. I am simply seeking the justice that the campus community has been wrongfully stripped of.

After speaking with students and doing some research, I created a Facebook poll to a get a better idea of what Ramapo students, on and off campus, were thinking. In this sampling, where close to 50 responses were recorded, 92 percent of students stated that they would be more likely to abide by their school’s alcohol policies if they felt they had more of a say in the matter. This is a small sampling, sure, but the result is certainly worth noting.

I strongly feel that there are solutions to some of the strict policies that have been enacted. 

Fuhring mentioned in an interview, “I met with President Mercer this morning and he seemed open to some ideas that may help us come to an agreement. One idea is a Ramapo shuttle bus that would transport students ages 21 and above, both to and from, local bars and other social venues.”

This is a plausible idea that could help give students a little bit more freedom, as opposed to inadvertently placing students into off-campus drinking scenarios that may lead to many students deciding to drive under the influence of alcohol.

Service opportunities may also serve as substitutes for fines.

We are all aware that Ramapo College, or any college cannot allow underage students to consume alcohol, and that is not what we are asking for. What we are asking for is that our voices are heard and our opinions considered.

If our efforts to change these policies fail, we at least want the following questions answered: who determines the sanctions imposed on students? Where are the distinctions drawn when fining students at gatherings where alcohol is present? If some members of an on-campus club or organization are in violation of the new policy, will all members be fined?

As the debate continues, more questions will likely arise.

We pay a hefty price to maintain attendance at Ramapo and have worked hard to make it this far in our academic careers. It is imperative that we are taken seriously because this is our college, too.

We are not against the administration responsible for the policy change; instead, I hope to be able to work together to figure out a solution that is in the best interest of the student body and the college as a whole.