University offers amnesty law for students

By Meredith Bumgarner – mbumgarn@unca.edu – Contributor | Sept. 24, 2014 |

UNC Asheville is one of many universities that approaches the issue of underage drinking through correcting negative behavior generating from irresponsible drinking, according to UNCA officials.

“Campus police takes a stance where we want to change that behavior and get the student some help,” said Eric Boyce, assistant vice chancellor of public safety.

Different student citation levels exist to determine how an underage student caught drinking can expect to be reprimanded and what course of action needs to be taken, according to Jay Cutspec, director of health and counseling for UNCA.

“It is hard to measure students’ awareness. We certainly make attempts and a variety of different ways to educate the students,” Cutspec said.

UNCA officials do their best to nurture a learning environment where if there is student misconduct taking place the sanctions that UNCA has in place intend to incorporate some educational component, according to Jackie McHargue, dean of students.

“We believe that the behavior that they develop here impacts their future decision making,” McHargue said.

The university tries to work with each student and looks at each case individually to assess the situation fairly, according to UNCA officials.

“Sometimes a student may say, ‘Well can I do this for part of my sanction,’ and we try to make it flexible so the student is invested in the sanction or they can go to a hearing process where a panel makes the determination of responsibility and then that panel will decide the equitable sanction,” McHargue said.

This opportunity for students to inquire about individual approaches to fulfilling their sanction proves to be a successful approach that both students and faculty prefer when it comes down to how student misconduct will be handled, according to UNCA officials.

“We resolve about 99 percent of student misconduct cases through a mutual agreement. Most students prefer the sitting-down conversation,” McHargue said.

When drinking gets out of control and lives appear in danger, there is an amnesty law that gives underage drinkers a chance to call for help without being penalized, according to Boyce.

“The state has an amnesty statue that says that if the 21-year-old that provided the alcohol notified the authorities and got medical attention for the underage person, then that person has amnesty,” Boyce said. “That person has amnesty against alcohol violations and only alcohol violations.”

If an underage student’s life is in danger, officials encourage a call be made not only to help the endangered student but to help fellow students as well. If a phone call is not made, then those who are 21, participating and providing the alcohol will be in violation and can be pursued by the law, according to UNCA officials.

“Say you have a group of people and a 21-year-old provided the alcohol, if somebody else makes the call about that student’s safety, then that 21-year-old can still be held responsible. If the 21-year-old makes the call, they are provided amnesty one time,” said Bill Haggard, vice chancellor for student affairs.

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