From 2005 to 2007, the most frequently occurring crimes at Fresno State have been liquor law violations. More than 600 incidents of liquor law violations have been reported on campus and in student housing, far out-pacing other high-number crimes like burglary, auto theft and drug offenses.
While the universityâ€™s annual security report shows a decline in the number of arrests for liquor law violations on campus during this time, the report also shows a big increase in what the university calls â€œdisciplinary referralsâ€ for liquor law violations.
According to the campusâ€™ 2008 Annual Security Report:
â€¢ In 2005 there were 80 arrests for liquor law violations on campus and in student housing, compared with 100 disciplinary referrals;
â€¢ In 2006, there were 24 arrests, compared with 207 referrals;
â€¢ In 2007, there were seven arrests, compared with 196 referrals.
University Police released the report earlier this semester. The crime statistics must be reported each year in accordance with the 1998 Jeanne Clery Act, which mandates that an annual security report with statistics of reported crimes on or around campus must be made available to all students and staff. The report must also include institutional policies on issues like drug and alcohol use, weapons and violence.
According to Paul Oliaro, Ph.D, the vice president of student affairs, Fresno State has made a concerted effort in the last several years to promote alcohol education and responsible drinking on campus. But those efforts, he said, must balance with enforcement of the law.
Oliaro said the universityâ€™s Alcohol Safety Council has a faculty pledge to make alcohol education programs available to students. He said more than 40 faculty members are involved with the subcommittee, and that the faculty involved share this information with students in classes.
â€œWe believe our efforts have made an impact, though we know circumstances will arise to affect the number of arrests and referrals for discipline from year to year,â€ Oliaro said.
Each case is different
According to the campus policy regarding alcohol use, students age 21 and over may consume alcohol on campus in the privacy of their residences if they have approval from the director of housing. Students may not be under the influence of alcohol elsewhere on campus.
Students cannot drink alcohol outside their rooms or in any public area, or they may have to answer to University Police. Students who are caught violating the policy may be arrested or may face a disciplinary referral.
Amy Armstrong, public information officer for the University Police, said many of the liquor law violations are reported from the student housing area. University Police responds to calls about underage drinking in the dorms and can arrest students and also make them pour out their beer.
â€œThere isnâ€™t really a typical example of a liquor law violation,â€ Armstrong said. â€œThey are all different. But most are for minors in possession of alcohol.â€
Referrals to Judicial Affairs
Breaking the liquor laws can earn students a bundle of punishment.
Campus police reports show that when a student is caught violating the alcohol policy in the university housing area, the reports are sometimes forwarded to the dean of students and the director of student housing for further discipline, when appropriate. Campus police reports can also be forwarded to the Fresno District Attorneyâ€™s office.
According to Joyce Ester, the associate vice president of judicial affairs, punishment from Judicial Affairs for liquor law violations can result in anything from probationary status to suspension from the university, depending on the severity of the crime.
Judicial Affairs is the universityâ€™s office that disciplines students, separate from civil and criminal justice authorities. According to Oliaro, Ester handles all disciplinary cases as a judicial officer.
â€œIf someone is going to be expelled, then itâ€™s coming through this office,â€ Ester said.
According to Ester, once a police report with a complaint about a student is received by Judicial Affairs, a letter is sent to the student. Then, the student must attend an informal conference with Ester where they can respond to the violation and possibly resolve it. Ester said that most student conduct matters are resolved at the informal conference stage.
For minor offenses occurring in the University Housing area, Oliaro has also appointed Michele Davis as a judicial officer. More serious offenses are still handled by Ester, he said.
According to Davis, there are disciplinary sanctions that are imposed on students for violating the alcohol policy. Sanctions include warnings, fines, mandatory room changes and termination of housing license agreements. Residents of the University Courtyard may also be required to go to alcohol education classes, do community service or even be assigned a reading or writing assignment for liquor law violations.
Armstrong also said that University Police isnâ€™t the only agency contributing to the Clery report numbers. Since the universityâ€™s boundaries touch the cities of both Fresno and Clovis, some of the statistics come from the Fresno and Clovis police departments, she said.
According to the security report, Fresno and Clovis police have contributed an additional 64 arrests for liquor law violations for the public areas bordering the campus.
By the time a student has completed his or her requirements in response to a liquor law violation, that student may have been arrested, stripped of all alcohol, assigned community service, attended alcohol education classes, paid fines and more.
Despite the time and resources involved with the penalties, balancing the high number of liquor law violations with the universityâ€™s focus on responsible drinking and enforcement of the law will continue to be a challenge.
Oliaro said: â€œThis is an ongoing effort. Iâ€™ve been working on this [myself] for six years.â€
Crime stats online
For more information about campus crime,
â€¢ Click here for the full 2008 Annual Security Report and a one-page statistical summary.
â€¢ Or, you can request a copy by visiting the University Police Department on Barstow Avenue or the Police Pavilion Center inside the University Student Union.