Student Government Association [SGA] wants to encourage students to attend programs they think will deter underage drinking and drug use on campus. “People don’t realize that there’s a drug problem until it’s in their face,” Jason McKairnes, a fourth-year SGA senator said.
McKairnes noticed an increase in drug usage in the fall 2010 semester compared to the year before, which was mostly due to alcohol-related incidents. McKairnes is concerned as the “affects of drugs” could likely be “worse than” alcohol affects.
Bicking and McKairnes analyze the annual crime report at the beginning of every semester for increases and decreases.
“Once I did a ride-along and saw it happening,” McKairnes said, “This was something that I wanted to address and fix.”
SGA hosts events such as “Sykes After Dark” on Friday nights from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. in hopes that a drug free and non-alcoholic activity will keep students from getting into trouble. SGA thinks that “programs like this help” as it “gives students something to do” on a Friday night. While they recognize students will still choose to drink underage, they hope the programs will “drop the problem” to a degree.
“It doesn’t hit people until Public Safety is knocking at their doors,” McKairnes said. “It breaks my heart to see an 18- year-old in handcuffs.”
First-year students may not “understand the consequences” such as “losing scholarships” for underage drinking or having a drug-related charge.
Originally doing one ride along a month since 2010, McKairnes is now doing two ride alongs a month after he noticed an increase in drug arrests. Riding along on a Friday night, McKairnes notes “who the students are that are being arrested,” as a note of which students are partaking in drugs and alcohol.
SGA is working with Public Safety officers to question the reason why students are drinking and “instead of cooperating with the [drug] problem” they are trying to “counter act” the problem.
McKairnes questions “why are these dealers on campus?” in the first place.
“I hope we can decrease the problem,” McKairnes said. SGA would like to have programs that deter students from underage drinking. The problem is usually with first-year students that “don’t know the boundaries” at the university.
From the student aspect, McKairnes finds it “amazing to see why people would be risking” their education and careers to drink. For the senate seat of the Department of Public Safety, McKairnes finds ride alongs with police to be “beneficial” as he reports back an “eye opening” experience to SGA.
“It hits you that students shouldn’t be doing this. They’re not here to drink or smoke,” McKairnes said. “I think it takes away from the college experience.”
First-year students attend orientation includes a program to educate students of how Public Safety officers operate. Students learn of Sgt. Paris and his K-9 unit, Piper.
McKairnes thinks it is up to other students to set an example. Students may “understand the consequence” of drug or alcohol charges, but they don’t understand the “affects or dangers” of drugs and alcohol.
“The key thing is having students teach other students,” McKairnes said.
By passing the knowledge, student influence will be more effective. McKairnes is working on a peer program that involves upperclassmen talking to first-year students about decisions they make involving drugs and alcohol. McKairnes is trying to get this program to be official before he graduates. McKairnes’s last term on the senate ended this past fall semester.
Fraternities and sororities and athletic teams can be the “positive face of the campus” McKairnes thinks, especially as such organizations have a “sense of belonging.” Having a peer to look up to is the “mindset the campus would need” in order to have a better influence on students.
“Students as a whole . . . could make friends who are not involved in [illegal activities],” McKairnes said.
Students have a “sense of freedom” that can “mentally hurt” themselves through college, “even if they don’t get caught” underage drinking or using drugs. Students need a “positive outlook” on their campus as “it’s what students can do for themselves.”
Students that live on south campus have “more freedom” as people are still choosing to “smoke or drink.” The drug arrests on campus “could be linked to influence” or freedom of first-year students, however there is “no definite answer why it’s increasing.”
The Department of Public Safety has added four patrols this year. The increase in the number of officers on patrol accounts for the increase in arrests or citations.
McKairnes said a Friday night ride along is also an opportunity for him to “keep tabs on the police themselves.” This includes any filed “complaints against police officers.”
SGA “faces all of the problems” of the university that “affects all the students.” SGA is willing to “join up” to decrease students from underage drinking and drug use.
The SGA senator on the Department of Public Safety must have an “understanding of the burdens of the students and policies” of the university. They must also want for students to obtain their education.
McKairnes’ replacement on the senate will have many “responsibilities” to maintain.
“I wouldn’t want to see students failing out [of college] because of alcohol/ drugs,” said McKairnes. “Even if I wasn’t on the senate.”
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.