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Alcohol Enforcement Resumes This Weekend

Student renters, landlords could face prosecution for illegal parties

Alcohol Enforcement and Safety, Boston University Student Health Services

Armed with a year-old ordinance, Boston police say they may begin arresting the landlords and student tenants of apartments with habitual violations of alcohol laws.

The so-called problem property ordinance targets sites that have had four documented complaints for underage drinking, loud parties, disorderly homes, and the like, says Sgt. Michael O’Hara of the Boston Police. “Students and others leasing apartments are legally responsible for what occurs on the premises that they are in control of,” he says. If cops receive yet another complaint about a designated problem property, the recommendation “is to arrest the students controlling the property on which the offense occurs.”

O’Hara says this “ratcheting up” of policing follows “dangerous situations that occurred during the 2011–2012 school year.” More than 200 BU students, mostly freshmen, were transported to the hospital for acute intoxication that year. (Five students were hospitalized in just the two weeks ending this past Sunday, September 2.) The University’s concern involves both safety and academics: in one recent year, the median GPA for BU freshmen who needed medical treatment for only one binge-drinking episode was almost a third of a point below that of their class, President Robert A. Brown says. Their grades landed those students in the bottom quartile of the class.

By law, “keepers of disorderly house(s)” face up to six months in jail or a $200 fine on a first offense and up to year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine for subsequent offenses. Procuring alcohol for underage drinkers is punishable by a fine of $200 and/or up to six months in jail. Underage students who persuade legal-age peers to buy them alcohol can be fined $300.

Arresting landlords and students is the newest part of a crackdown against high-risk drinking that began last year. University, Boston, and Brookline police will resume increased patrols of known partying neighborhoods beginning this weekend, breaking up loud parties and issuing citations and making arrests for alcohol law violations. The weekly enforcement statistics will be published each Thursday by BU Today.

Those efforts angered some students last year but won plaudits from parents worried about their students’ safety and from nearby residents grateful for peace and quiet. David McBride, director of Student Health Services (SHS), emphasizes that student surveys show that those netted for alcohol violations are a fraction of BU’s student body. More than 30 percent of first-year students “report that they don’t drink alcohol at all,” he says. Elizabeth Douglas, SHS manager of wellness and prevention services, says about 55 percent of students report having just one or two drinks on a typical weekend night.

“The great news is that most of our students are conducting themselves responsibly when they party,” McBride says. “It is the minority of students who act irresponsibly and cause problems for other students.”

Boston University Police Department BUPD Alcohol Enforcement chart showing Student Liquor Law Violations Cited vs hospital emergency room visits for intoxication

Chart courtesy of Boston University Police Department

The BU Police Department has evidence that coming down hard on enforcement decreases alcohol-related offenses. The chart accompanying this story shows that as penalties for liquor law violations (the red line) went up, the number of hospital runs for dangerously intoxicated students (the blue line) went down. The statistics include citations by the BUPD only and not area police, says Thomas Robbins, chief of the BUPD.

The main concern of both police and BU is safety, says McBride. “When people behave responsibly, they are unlikely to find themselves facing law enforcement or other legal penalties. They also will be less likely to be injured or victimized, involved in fights, robbed, and so forth.”

Brown made the same point in a letter mailed to parents last month. Citing last year’s hospitalized students—whose blood alcohol content averaged .211, almost three times the legal limit, McBride says—the president reminded parents that Massachusetts forbids drinking by people under age 21 and that student offenders face required counseling and discipline under the University’s alcohol policy.

“Student alcohol use is also associated with sexual assault,” Brown wrote. “In addition to impairing the judgment of users, alcohol renders victims more vulnerable, and alcohol use is a significant risk factor for being sexually assaulted.” He alerted parents to the new BU Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center, which opened last week at 930 Commonwealth Ave.

“Boston University holds its students to a higher standard than the general community and we are proud of our students’ level of achievement and engagement in the community,” wrote Brown, asking parents to convey to their children the dangers of binge drinking and the fact that, in this matter, there’s no need to keep up with the Joneses: most students drink moderately, and more than a third drink irregularly or not at all.

Brown’s Matriculation speech last Sunday put it more graphically: “Having two drinks for an average woman or three drinks for a man in one hour will leave you impaired in judgment and coordination. If you keep drinking at that rate, you will raise your blood alcohol to a dangerously high level, leaving yourself incapacitated where others might take advantage of you, or simply result in you waking up in a pool of your own stomach contents, either in your bed, some other unfamiliar place, or at the emergency room. This could leave you evicted from student housing. For some, the consequences can be much, much worse.”

Rich Barlow, Senior Writer, BU Today, Bostonia, Boston University
Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

17 Comments on Alcohol Enforcement Resumes This Weekend

  • AP on 09.07.2012 at 10:04 am

    “The University’s concern involves both safety and academics: in one recent year, the median GPA for BU freshmen who needed medical treatment for only one binge-drinking episode was almost a third of a point below that of their class, President Robert A. Brown says.”

    Remembering back to my freshman year in college, there is a reason for that. They are engaging in dangerous behaviors because they are less intelligent and less mature, and therefore less able to see the consequences of their actions or handle stress correctly. This translates to skipping class because they don’t want to go, not managing their assignments or time correctly, or avoiding work altogether because it’s hard, stressful, or not fun. Excessive drinking is a symptom of a student who is seriously lacking in maturity and personal responsibility. It is not the cause.

  • Franz on 09.07.2012 at 10:09 am

    Come out to Brighton and police some of these BC neighborhoods. It’s been hard getting sleep with all the yelling well in to the early morning.

  • Lake District on 09.07.2012 at 10:21 am

    I am 19 studying abroad in London right now and I, among with everyone else in the program from BU, who are also under 21, drink a lot, but we do so responsibly and maturely. The same goes the Brits I have met here who are under 21. I don’t think the problem is of age, it is how alcohol is portrayed as a forbidden fruit. Lower the drinking age and stop being so sheltering of your kids because they are going to drink no matter what you say. Instead teach them at a young age how to do so responsibly, because, from what I have noticed, it is the innocent sheltered girls who are the ones who get much too drunk, and end up naked with throw up on themselves.

    • Sean on 09.07.2012 at 10:32 am

      well put

    • rodrigo farias on 09.07.2012 at 3:05 pm

      I’m an international student. Just arrived in Boston and quite honestly im shocked as how the authorities and society handle alcohol. Putting it on a holy grail makes it ever more tempting for kids who just turned 21 to binge drinking. The laws are so strict that it actually backfires. If the rules were more flexible then so would the society see drinking in a more tangible way. Learning how to drink when you are younger at home is much smarter then learning it when you are a freshman in college

      • Morgan on 09.07.2012 at 7:10 pm

        Couldn’t agree more. I’m originally South African where the drinking age is 18. Come to America and drinking is a far more widespread problem. I often find myself engaging in situations that I would not like to be in to avoid the police. How often do students take sketchy back roads in Allston rather then the main street to avoid police?

        These policies make it worthless to try and even drink responsibly. Have two drinks and I am as much of a criminal as someone who had fifteen. I also enjoy beer, something I cannot explore in this country until 21 (maybe that is why Americans like such disgusting beer).

  • Lake District on 09.07.2012 at 10:26 am

    and the people who get way too drunk are going to get way too drunk no matter how strict the policies, they are just going to be more sneaky about it, so why ruin the fun for all of us people who are smart about drinking?

  • Really? on 09.07.2012 at 11:14 am

    For the freshmen reading this:
    An article like this is published every fall and its always the same old stuff. Also drinking doesn’t affect your GPA unless you’re a serious alcoholic or you go out when you should be studying for exams.

    For the parents reading this:
    It is standard practice at the freshman dorms to send a student to the hospital if the guard thinks he is just tipsy or has any alcohol at all in his blood no matter how small the amount. So when you read that students are being ‘transported to the hospital for acute intoxication’, feel free to roll your eyes just a little.

    There is nothing wrong with having a few drinks on a Saturday night, just do it responsibly.

    I’d love for the BUPD to slip inside a BU party once instead of busting it and see how 99% of the people present there are doing just that.

  • Marcus on 09.07.2012 at 11:43 am

    That chart is a little confusing for me, but it seems like the crackdowns early in September result in students becoming more cautious with partying and getting caught less in October.
    It might also be with more crackdowns there are less parties, but as the violations go down, the hospitalizations go up–implying that the situation did not improve.

    This seems to be the trend each year. The x-axis on this graph makes interpreting it difficult.

    • Dan Cusher on 09.10.2012 at 9:40 am

      That figure and the article as a whole are quite misleading. Did anyone run any stats on the data, or just plug the numbers into Excel? The only two months are September and October – do they not have data for any other months, or did that data just not conform to their preconceived narrative? Furthermore, even if the rest of the data conformed to that pattern AND were statistically significant, it’s presented as “evidence that coming down hard on enforcement decreases alcohol-related offenses.” Bullshit. Anyone who has ever taken a stats class knows the mantra: correlation does not imply causation.

      Regardless of whether it’s true, regardless of who is right on this issue, this article was irresponsibly written.

  • Tom on 09.07.2012 at 1:52 pm

    Out of curiosity, does anyone have an idea of how other private universities treat off campus parties in comparison to this ridiculous BU task force? Maybe this is stemming from all of the bad press from last year, but it still seems a bit odd to put so much effort into shutting down college parties.

  • Allston resident on 09.07.2012 at 6:07 pm

    Get the hell out of Allston with all your drunk and pervert students. BU has turned Allston into a dump.

  • OH on 09.09.2012 at 8:15 pm

    I wish Sgt. Michael O’Hara of the Boston Police raids the Boston Univ Watten Towers rather than the apartments. At BU he can get hold of a bus full.

  • Anshul Jain on 09.13.2012 at 11:25 am

    Discovery has Shark Week–BU has NARC WEEK! Boooooooooo!!!

  • BU parent on 09.14.2012 at 4:09 pm

    ALL decision making goes out the window with alcohol. you need to find a way to have fun without putting yourself in danger and wasting your parents money.

  • BU Professional on 09.20.2012 at 8:42 am

    As a member of a professional licensing board, students need to know that if they are convicted of a DUI, or any other “minor” offense, this will follow you your entire career as you need to obtain and keep a license to practice, whether Law, Medicine, Social work, Plumbing or any other licensed profession. You will have to state your offense on an application and in some cases go before a Board to explain your behaviors at the age of 18. It is a royal pain in everyone’s butt!! Be careful what you do at 18, as it can impact your ENTIRE

  • Gary on 11.01.2012 at 1:14 pm

    ” More than 30 percent of first-year students “report that they don’t drink alcohol at all,”

    Unicorns also exist!

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