Maryville College is reaching the final steps in the process of changing the alcohol policy on campus.
Jacob Timmie, junior class president, is the author of the bill that was proposed to edit the current alcohol policy.
As it stands, there are two kinds of violations on campus: consumption and non-consumption. Consumption refers to a violation that involves the documentation of a student who was drinking alcohol, while non-consumption involves the documentation of a student who was not drinking, but was present in a room, apartment or suite with alcohol.
Timmie started looking at the current policy after noticing that the consequences for consumption and non-consumption were exceptionally similar, even though the violations can be very different.
In addition, the limitations of understanding the current alcohol policy may hinder students from knowing the possible consequences of alcohol violations.
The current policy is a system of “progressive sanctioning,” where the punishments increase exponentially with each violation. Currently, with the first non-consumption violation, a student is subject to a $50 fine and eight weeks of probation. With the first consumption violation, a student is subject to a $50 fine, twelve weeks of probation and a minimum of one alcohol decision-making session.
For such different violations, the punishments are remarkably similar, so Timmie said he set out to change them.
The goals of the bill are to “provide proportionate sanctions for alcohol violations,” Timmie explained. He is also endeavoring to provide a clear and defined alcohol policy where students can properly understand alcohol charges and consequences.
The major changes to the policy will fall under non-consumption violations. Instead of a $50 fine for a first non-consumption violation, students would face a $25 fine and probation has been reduced from eight weeks to three.
The changes continue down the non-consumption violation chart that Timmie has drafted in attempt to make the possible consequences for non-consumption more coherent.
Instead of one chart in the Maryville College handbook that details the combinations of possible violations, there are two charts proposed that lead a student through the punishments that could compound with different violations.
The policy changes have been drafted and were approved by SGA last year, but that’s not where the process ends. Since SGA’s approval, the policy changes were taken before Student Life Committee (SLC).
As defined by Timmie, “SLC meets once a month and is responsible for approving clubs and organizations, as well as going over proposed changes to the student handbook. Members include Paul Earhart-Brown, me, Doniqua Flack, Vandy Kemp, Allison Norris, Kristen Gourley, Dr. Siopsis and Dr. Unger.”
This is simply the next step in the approval process before the changes can be taken into affect.
According to SGA advisor Ben Wicker, SLC has a pivotal role in this system.
“If you think about it in terms of government, SLC is a checks system (executive branch) for SGA (legislative branch),” Wicker said. “SLC helps to ensure that the measures which SGA passes (to some extent) is in the best interest of the College and its community.”
In addition to presenting the policy changes before SLC, Timmie is also required to hold two alcohol policy student forums and to have the changes written about in The Highland Echo.
“The campus wide forums will be a way for students to express their opinions on the changes and also to have a better understanding of the potential changes,” Timmie said. “We basically will be discussing the implications of the changes.”
The first forum was held on Friday, Nov. 15 at 12 p.m. in Bartlett 102/103. The second forum will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 3:30 p.m. in Bartlett 102/103.
Several members of SLC were present for Friday’s forum, including Gourley, Norris, Kemp, Earhart-Brown and Timmie. Also in attendance were Wicker and Spencer Blanden, SGA body president.
The forum lasted about an hour and consisted of Timmie presenting the same material he will be bringing before SLC on Wednesday, Nov. 20, to try and get their approval.
There were questions about the importance of giving students probation on a non-consumption violation, as probation of any kind prevents a student from living in certain buildings on campus.
From this point, Timmie has a few more steps before the policy changes reach the end of the approval process.
“SLC will vote on whether to approve the changes by the end of that meeting on the 20. If approved by SLC, the policy will be passed the college president. If approved by the president, the board of directors will be presented with the change during its January meeting, discuss the changes and vote to approve it at that point,” Wicker said. “Only by passing all of those levels will the policy then be enacted.”