Arrests, disciplinary actions increase for third year in a row

By Carleigh Turner, The Miami Student

If you are going to get in trouble at Miami University, it’s probably going to be for drinking alcohol.

Last year, Miami reported 856 liquor law violations that led to disciplinary action and 176 arrests due to liquor law violations, according to its Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.

The numbers surpass last year’s 2014 totals, which included 794 disciplinary actions and 150 arrests. A year earlier, in 2013, Miami reported 643 disciplinary actions and 105 arrests.

Susan Vaughn, director of the Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution, said she is not worried about the numbers increasing because they are not significant enough to show a trend.

“I’ve been here 32 years, and there’s no way to justify or explain increase or decrease,” Vaughn said.

Vice President for Student Affairs Jayne Brownell is not especially concerned about this year’s increase either, but does hope the report shows that Miami is holding students accountable for their actions.

“I think that there is a lot of myth or rumor or assumption made by students about how many people drink on campus and what happens to them,” Brownell said. “I think their awareness about how many people (have received disciplinary action or been arrested) is a good thing for them to know.”

Miami’s Annual Security Fire and Safety Report, released Sept. 30, is federally mandated under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act. This act requires all colleges and universities receiving federal funding to submit an annual report about campus crime.

Miami’s numbers are collected by multiple agencies — including local law enforcement, residence life, the Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution and the Division of Student Affairs — and reflect crimes that have occurred on Miami-owned property.

Violations that occur at fraternity houses or other off-campus locations are not included.

The report is considered a tool for prospective Miami students and their families who are looking for a snapshot of crime on campus. In addition to reports on arrests and disciplinary action related to alcohol use, the report discloses sexual assaults, drug violations, murders and robberies. In 2015, Miami had 21 reported sexual assaults, 121 drug law violations resulting in an arrest, zero murders and one robbery.

Vaughn said the numbers of students disciplined or arrested for liquor law violations are one of the least telling factors of what is happening on campus and should not affect students’ decisions to come to Miami.

“Numbers are the least influential part of any decision — whether to drink or go uptown or not,” Vaughn said. “It’s the visit to the campus on any given weekday or weekend. What are you seeing that’s going on here? Again, whether you’re arrested or not, what is the culture about on campus? It’s not about numbers.”

With 10,597 more students than Miami, Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, reported 106 fewer liquor law arrests than Miami for 2015. OSU, with 58,322 students, reported 200 arrests in that category; the University of Cincinnati, with 35,313 students, reported 25 arrests.

Vaughn said seeing an increase in arrests in Oxford is not necessarily a bad thing.

“Having a lot of arrests doesn’t mean [a community] is a bad community, it probably means [the community] is a really good community,” Vaughn said.

Capt. Benjamin Spilman of the Miami University Police Department said the number of students arrested or disciplined on Miami’s campus is relatively small, compared to Miami’s population of 18,620 students. And the numbers don’t necessarily reflect how many students are drinking on Miami’s campus, he said. But the numbers do represent how Miami police officers respond to situations that they observe.

“Our concern is making sure that people are safe.We take enforcement action primarily as a means to keep people safe,” Spilman said.

Andrea Nicholson, junior at Miami University and Delta Zeta’s vice president of programs, said she is embarrassed about how many students were being arrested for liquor law violations at Miami.

“I hear those numbers and as a student on Miami’s campus, I don’t want to be associated with that, nobody wants that to be that headline,” Nicholson said. “I’m shocked — but at the same time not that shocked.”

Last week, Delta Zeta chapters across the country partnered with the Coalition of Higher Education Association for Substance Abuse Prevention on I Have a Choice, a national initiative to promote the dangers of irresponsible drinking.

Miami’s Delta Zeta chapter pushed the campaign via social media and recruited nearly 200 students to sign a pledge to drink responsibly. The pledge sheets was displayed outside the Farmer Business School building as a culmination to the initiative.

Nicholson said the numbers in the Clery report should be a wake-up call.

“I think that drinking on this campus is a huge issue, but it doesn’t become an issue until the arrests happen,” Nicholson said. “It’s your choice. It’s your choice to make informed decisions and it’s your choice to drink responsibly.”

Brownell said it is important to consider the individual students represented by the numbers. Each arrest or disciplinary action significantly affects a student’s life. She hopes increased education efforts will help decrease negative consequences.

“There is always going to be a certain amount of curiosity and experimentation in college-aged students. I don’t think we will ever be at the point where those violations are zero,” Brownell said. “But I hope that we would be able to help students make more educated decisions, so that we do see these numbers go down.”