The third annual “Booze News” event took place on Thursday Oct. 20 to inform students of alcohol/ drug topics through various informative sessions.
Students selected two of five sessions to attend, lasting for 45 minutes each. “Booze News You Can Use: a Chance to Talk About Alcohol” hosted by Mary Jane Rogan, Student Health Services, gave an overview of choices that could “save your life” when consuming alcohol. “Safety is Everyone’s Business: Get it Together” hosted by Jeanette Owsley and Kenny Bronson, Department of Public Safety (DPS) security officers, provided students with “dangers of alcohol misuse” and “basic crime prevention.” Dr. Adale Sholock of the Women’s Center hosted “Spin the Bottle: Alcohol, Sex and Consent” informing students of the “impact of substance use (and misuse) on decision making and sexual behavior (and misbehavior).”
A newer session, offered for a second time, “I Just Got Busted for Underage Drinking . . . Now What?!” incorporates a mock trial.
The “step-by-step” session began with a video “depicting an underage arrest” and judicial conference. Judge Gwen Knapp presided the mock trial hearing of an underage citation.
While many students are “misinformed” of their rights, Judge Knapp hoped the mock trial would educate them. She said many court cases she sees involves alcohol or drugs. These cases can “lead to serious criminal behavior” consisting of DUI, theft, rape, and so on. According to the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) for WCU, during September, DPS officers made three DUI arrests.
Judge Knapp said many people give an excuse for their defense in result of their actions. In a noise violation case, “it’s the residents (of West Chester) that care the most” about the loud volumes at night. Civil cases the judges hear involve leases between landlords and tenants.
“I love this idea,” Judge Knapp said in regards to the mock trial. “I think it’d be lovely if people had a better understanding of the law prior to getting in trouble and prior to going to court.”
In full uniform, Officer Daniel Irons gave a realistic testimony of what an officer would say in a tangible court case.
Judge Knapp said a police officer’s testimony is evidence that needs “specific” information in order to retain “credibility” for a ruling. If the officer does not furnish enough detailed information, the credibility can lead to favoring the defense. In the mock trial testimony, Irons gave a description of stopping an intoxicated person by including a visible appearance and factors indicating consumption of alcohol. He continued by identifying the person by name and date of birth.
A question and answer session followed the conclusion of the mock trial. The judge explained aspects of a standard court hearing. Many students asked hypothetical questions and described scenarios to learn more about laws and consequences. Judge Knapp encouraged students to talk with her and “focus on your academics.”
“I’m thankful for this opportunity,” Knapp said. “I’d rather see you here (in the mock trial setting) than in my court room.”
“Since its creation, attendance at Booze News has been included among the conditions for sanction students judicially for alcohol and/or drug violations of the Student Code of Conduct,” Marcus Harrison, Resident Director of Alleghany, said. “For those students having received citations for such violations, they attended the mock trial session to glean an idea of what to expect when they appear before a judge in court.”
Another session popular in attendance, “Join Us in the Land of Reality Because Drugs Are Here: It’s Show and Tell Time.” Sgt. Matthew Paris, 14-year veteran at DPS, hosted the session. He began as a criminal investigator in 2005 and works with Piper, a six year-old black lab drug K-9 officer.
“We’re a necessary evil,” Paris began his session. Pertaining to the on-campus police, he said they enforce laws and protect students for their safety.
Through investigations, Paris found drug-dealers on-campus and drug dealing off-campus. People found using text messaging for illegal drugs will be charged as a felony for every message.
At the university, Piper typically detects marijuana and prescription drugs. According to the UCR for WCU, during the month of September, DPS officers arrested 26 persons for possession of marijuana. Paris works for the state, doing county work with Piper as she can detect mostly every drug.
A visual display held previously confiscated evidence, included four diverse bongs and other drug paraphernalia items, digital scales, baggies, fake IDs, pellet gun and a display of assorted illegal drugs. Pointing to the items on display, Paris informed students “all of this is probable cause to search.”
With evidence covering three fold-up tables, Paris said the amount of evidence, paraphernalia and drugs, makes up one-tenth of the amount confiscated at the start of the academic year. Students surprise reaction during the session lead Paris to inform them it is only a fraction of what will be confiscated in the remaining academic year.
The display consisted of items from the evidence room in DPS and is “not live” evidence. Police “always log in evidence.” After a case hearing, “evidence gets destroyed” as officers take drugs to incinerators and physically break paraphernalia.
Student Code of Conduct and state laws “don’t tolerate” the use of illegal drugs. “Official (police) action is taken to show impartiality.” It is likely someone will report a drug odor smell to DPS “if you smoke in the dorms.” With his years of experience, Paris can “smell marijuana a mile away.” He prefers to walk around campus instead of driving in a patrol car. Paris ended with anecdotes to enlighten students of how the K-9 unit operates. Resident assistants (RAs) asked students to fill out evaluation cards about the event, collecting feedback for next year’s event.
Harrison said the event, collaborated by RAs of Allegheny, University, and Brandywine Halls, with guidance from Graduate Hall Director, Chris Gueno, and Resident Directors, Lance Collier and Harrison, continued as an idea from a previous RA, Jonathan Curtis. “Booze News” started in fall 2009 after Curtis, history education major, developed the event.
“He (Curtis) brought his idea to our staff at the time as a means of sharing valuable information with our student population about alcohol/drug use and making wise choices where those substances are concerned without being preachy or lecturing,” Harrison said.
Harrison said “Booze News” functioned with the support from Residence Life and Housing Services, Judicial Affairs and Student Assistance, University Student Housing, L.L.C., and the Residence Hall Association.
He would also like to thank the help from facilitators from the Department of Public Safety, Women’s Center, Student Health Services (Wellness Center), and West Chester Borough (District Court Judge Gwen Knapp).
Special support has been provided by Dr. Matthew Bricketto, Vice President for Student Affairs.
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a fifth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached a