Let’s talk alcohol. Underage drinking is the most prevalent alcohol violation that students face on the Troy campus, according to the University Police Department, but there are some other significant alcohol abuses that students should be aware of.
Troy University Police Department Chief John McCall spoke with the Tropolitan on misconceptions, regulations and penalties regarding alcohol abuse on campus.
Overall, McCall identified violations concerning DUI, open containers in vehicles, persons under the age consuming, sale and distribution to minors, and matters of public intoxication as the common violations.
He said that the university police want to help students but will not back off on certain violations.
“Students need to realize that while university police tend to try and help students, these normal alcohol incidents are one thing, but a DUI is quite another,” McCall said. “If we catch you operating a motor vehicle under the influence, you will go to jail, and that doesn’t matter who catches you, that is zero tolerance.”
In fact, a person does not necessarily have to be driving for a DUI to be issued. Any person in a vehicle with an open container of alcohol, able to take physical control of the car, is eligible for a DUI.
McCall also cleared up the definition of what is considered to be an “open container” inside a vehicle.
Any alcoholic beverage container that is not completely sealed inside the vehicle can be considered an open container. For example, a half-empty bottle of liquor with its lid screwed on in the car is considered an open container. Solo cups with alcohol in them: open containers.
“People need to understand that it isn’t worth it,” McCall said.
“Students are here spending thousands of dollars to get a degree, and having a DUI can prevent you getting a job later down the line. So one night of drinking isn’t worth it.”
A common misconception is that if the driver cannot reach it, he or she cannot be cited with having an open container in a vehicle, but this is not the case. Do not chance it.
Anything that is in the front seat or the passenger’s compartment is considered an open container, even if the container is empty. So if you are driving, make sure that you secure anything in a place that is not within the main passenger area of the vehicle.
Another thing to be careful of is having an open container in public and publicly consuming alcohol. The key with consumption in public is that an officer has to be able to witness it, according to McCall.
“It’s very hard for us to say, ‘Hey, they are drinking alcohol’ when it’s in a solo cup, and you are walking down the street, and most officers are not going to stop you walking down the street because you have a cup in your hand and ask to see what is inside of it.”
So even in a different container, it is still consumption in public. If you are being obvious about what you are doing and an officer witnesses it, it is very possible that the officer will stop and say something.
“It is possible that university police officers are a little more accommodating to students, as we are more understanding of the goings on of a college campus,” McCall said. “We don’t condone it by any means, but we try to help students who are in that situation, whereas the local police might not be so accommodating.”
McCall said that there is a big difference between being intoxicated right outside your dorm and being intoxicated three miles away from your dorm. He said his officers all follow the same culture of caring on campus that Chancellor Jack Hawkins talks about.
“Can we help you get to your dorm and get to bed? Yeah, we can, but will the local police do it? No, they will not,” McCall said. “We are all university employees here at the University Police Department, and so we care a little bit more about the students than the local police or other state police, such as the state troopers or the ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) agents might. With that in mind, we try to help you out. We want you to leave the university with a degree and not a criminal record.”
Students who desire to look at the University’s alcohol policies can look at the student handbook, “The Oracle.” Free copies of the handbook are located in boxes in the lobby of Eldridge Hall on campus. The alcohol policies are located on page 8 of the student handbook.
As well, pamphlets on alcohol safety are available for students in the University Health Center. For more information on alcohol use in on campus residence halls students can visit the Troy Housing website at: http://trojan.troy.edu/housing/.
From there, information is avaliable under the “Policies for Residence Hall Living” section.
***This article will continue in the November, 7, 2013.