UI jurisdiction expansion should not be misused


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Audio: Editorial commentary

Soon, UI administrators will have more power over students than ever before.

They will extend their jurisdiction to include off-campus charges filed against students.

Under the new policy, if students receive alcohol-related citations — such as PAULAs and public intoxication — the university will require an evaluation of their drinking habits and associated behaviors through Student Health Service. After the evaluation, staff will have the choice to recommend the student take counseling or an education class. UI interim Vice President of Student Services Tom Rocklin said the plan would be in place before next fall.

While we support the UI’s attempt to curb the problems of overconsumption and violence, we urge officials not to use it wantonly.

Currently, the university has the power to step in when students are caught dealing drugs or charged with a serious assault off-campus. The new policy is designed to identify students who may have serious alcohol issues or other substance-abuse problems and provide help. Each incident will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, administrators limit their sanctions against off-campus perpetrators to those who are in danger of harming themselves or harming those around them.

While UI Associate Dean of Students Tom Baker said UI officials are not modeling their new policy on that of any particular school, we encourage them to use the same parameters.

Officials have been discussing the possibility of getting involved with off-campus drinking violations for years and, since hiring a new dean of student services, they finally have the staff power to do it.

Now that the UI has the resources, it will have more time to spend on the issue, and Baker said he thinks the school now has the ability to “do it right.”

Although the majority of citations involving public intoxication, trespassing, and assault are not filed against students, Rocklin said, he hopes the administration’s attempts to change students’ habits will make a dent in the problem.

“You can have an effect on the problem without affecting its largest source,” he said.

We agree.

College education goes beyond what’s taught in the classroom. College is the time for students to learn to become productive, contributing members of the community. And this policy could encourage that development.

The stretch of jurisdiction is a way for UI officials to let students know that there is an expected level of maturity. The behavior of our students reflects on the reputation of the university as a whole, and the recent surge of alcohol-related problems has cast a foul light on the UI community.

Alcohol consumption and violence have been hot topics among city and university officials, and they have made a number of misguided attempts at solving the problem. For example, the city’s newly implemented PAULA ratio is a remedy with an overly narrow target: underage drinking.

We realize there is a problem that needs to be solved. Drinking is a tradition in college life, but the recent wave of violence and disruption within the community caused by excessive drinking is a troubling. The university’s new policy is a positive step towards that. It won’t focus explicitly on PAULAs, and it will rightly eschew a uniform enforcement policy.

We support the UI’s plan to extend their jurisdiction outside of campus property because their main goal is to provide help to students who may need it. At the same time, we urge officials to constrict their punishments to those who actually deserve them.

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