On September 20, students found an alarming email in their inboxes.
Dean of Student Life Steven Watter forwarded the cautionary mass email to the Haverford student body on, which included a September 17 Montgomery County Times Herald article entitled “PA State Police Cracking Down on Underage Drinking.” The article announced that local and state police are increasing their efforts to minimize underage drinking on college campuses, in part by scheduling meetings with college administrators. The article also mentioned that authorities have met with local businesses with liquor licenses in order to remind them of the consequences associated with selling alcohol to minors.
The email sparked confusion and fear among many students, who thought the article was announcing new regulations.
But according to JSAAP Co-Chair Ellen Reinhart ’15, it was written not in response to the passing of any new drinking laws, but rather as a reminder of ones already in place—especially those directed at students of legal drinking age who supply alcohol to underage peers.
“The purpose of the e-mail isn’t to scare anyone, but is meant to stress the importance of being aware of the repercussions of one’s actions when purchasing and consuming alcohol,” said Reinhart.
Watter emphasized that the email was not about a change in the law. “The legal realities are not new,” he said. “It is just that now greater emphasis is being placed on holding accountable those who are providing alcohol to underage individuals.”
Neither Watter nor Executive Director of Campus Safety Tom King feel that there will be an increased police presence on campus. Both stressed that students should know it has always been illegal to make alcohol available to anyone younger than 21, in addition to specifically purchasing it for them.
According to King, the administration has “been saying for some time that we sensed that law enforcement was going to increasingly focus on those who supply alcohol to underage drinkers – and not just underage drinkers themselves.”
The email “was not targeted to any group and it was not sent in response to a specific incident,” he added.
The following information about Pennsylvania law was noted in the article, and forwarded in Watter’s email:
“Any person under the age of 21 that is caught in possession of or consuming alcohol will face a potential fine of up to $300 and up to 90 days in jail for a first offense, with a $500 increase in fine for each subsequent offense. Additionally, any person convicted of underage drinking, carrying a false ID, or misrepresenting their age will lose driving privileges for 90 days for the first offense, one year for a second offense, and two years for any subsequent offenses. Not only will police target minors that consume alcohol, any person that is caught supplying alcohol to minors will be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor and faces a minimum fine of $1,000 and up to one year in prison. Subsequent offenses will include a minimum fine of $2,500.”
Regardless of the level of permissiveness for drinking on campus, I hope students will demonstrate a little more care for the community by not adorning the lawns around Drinker with empty beer cans and bottles as was the case on a few recent weekends.