By: AMANDA SICILIANO
Ramapo has been under fire for its students abuse of alcohol. This past semester issues with noise complaints, vandalism, public disregard for public safety, and unfortunately, a car accident involved on campus with a Ramapo student drunk behind the wheel have caused Ramapo to review it’s alcohol policy and student relationship with public safety.
The raucous incidents on campus Halloween and the arrest of a student who police allege was driving under the influence of alcohol led administrators to revisit the policy.
Some students at Ramapo complain that they are treated as children, unable to roam freely about their apartments in the Village without being questioned by Public Safety. In September of this year the SGA facilitated the Village Stairwell Community Standards Agreement. This agreement states that there will be an SGA liaison to every Village building to help discuss and rectify problems before bringing them straight to public safety. With students talking with each other, SGA thought this would help these students take responsibility and deal with issues on their own.
By the beginning of October, there was already as drastic decrease in alcohol-related offenses. While the administration believed the cause was the rise in fine for alcohol violations, the students content with public safety’s lenience with issuing violations. But as students began partying again, frightening public safety, another change needed to be made. SGA then held an open forum later in October to discuss with the administration about the problems between students and public safety that had started to arise once again.
Senior and Village resident Kevin Cottino does not want any problems with public safety, but feels that public safety goes looking for problems. “I’m 21 years old; I should be able to roam freely around my quad without being harassed by public safety.” Cottino says.
Many of the issues with public safety in the beginning of the semester dealt with students who were not allowed to congregate outside in the village quads. Students complained that without noise complaints, public safety officers were patrolling the Village and telling students to go back to their respective dorms. Even students residing in the Village were told they were unable to stand outside their apartments and were to go back into their rooms immediately or violations would be issued.
Vincent Markowski, director of public safety wants the students of Ramapo to have a great college experience, but also be safe. He is aware of how public safety is perceived by the students but only wants what is best for the students on this campus.
“We had large parties which were in excess of 100 people, and when you do that you draw off campus people.” says Markowski. “It’s easier to be disorderly when you’re in a large group.”
An off campus group was said to be sponsoring parties in the village, but these parties quickly grew out of hand when non-Ramapo students were added to the mix.
“We didn’t have issues until the large parties started.” says Markowski. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of our students are good students.”
Markowski says that public safety is just doing its job to keep the students of Ramapo safe; officers do not go out looking to give violations but will if they feel the safety of students are at risk or if a student is partaking in activities illegal to the school or illegal to the state.
Halloweekend at Ramapo
This past Halloween, Ramapo student’s experienced alcohol-related issues that caused public safety to put an even tighter leash on the students. One night of the weekend there was a fight between multiple male students and as it escalated and drew a crowd, police needed to break it up.
But the real tragedy of the night was when an under-aged student got behind the wheel of a car, while under the influence of alcohol, and intended to drive to the village with two friends in the car as well. The driver crashed head-on into another vehicle and the two passengers were sent to the hospital. This was a wide awakening for many students on campus. “In America on average, nearly 12,000 people die every year in DUI-related accidents. 900,000 are arrested each year for DUI/DWI and a full 1/3 of those are repeat offenders.” says drinkinganddriving.org. LINK
Sara Tarangelo, a junior, fears how out of control her fellow students get while intoxicated. “College kids think they’re invincible, that nothing bad will ever happen to them because they are young and having fun.”
Suitcase School becoming a Commuter School?
Going into the spring semester, there are more than 300 empty beds in the dorms throughout campus. As the social life on Ramapo’s campus dwindles, so does its appeal for students to live on campus. Without students living on campus, the college receives substantially less money per semester. Ramapo’s debt is rising while boarding students is decreasing.
Ramapo is considered a suitcase school, meaning students live on campus but all travel home for the weekends. The majority of Ramapo’s student population lives in New Jersey or New York, and while a large amount of students still reside in on campus housing, living off campus has become more appealing.
“There are more things to do when I’m at home than at school.” says Cassandra Krupski, who lived on campus for two years before deciding to commute. “I’m not missing out on anything on campus now that I commute and now I don’t have to take out loans for school for room and board.”
Jessica Vangelas, another commuter at Ramapo, finds that living at home gives her more freedom than if she lived on campus. “If I am safe, my parents trust me to make the right decisions on my own, but all my friends who live on campus are always afraid of public safety. It’s a hassle I’m happy I don’t have to deal with.”
This year, CollegeData.com showed that 76% of freshmen reside in on campus dorms whereas only 51% of all students do. An estimated 49% commute, and that number may be rising.
The catch 22 in the issue between public safety and Ramapo’s students is simple: The stricter public safety is on the students, the fewer problems will occur, but there is then little to no social activity, making the school less desirable for students now to live on campus and for future students to apply, student leaders say. But, if public safety is to stay more lenient, they run the risk of continuous vandalism and accidents that can give the school an equally bad reputation.
“I understand this is college and those of age should be allowed to have fun,” says senior Christina Rafanello, risk management chair of her sorority. “But public safety also has a job to keep all the students on this campus safe and that is something students need to take into consideration.” Rafanello also argues that there is a fine line between public safety ensuring the safety of students and public safety going out of their way to give unnecessary violations, a problem many students have expressed.
What will Ramapo do to ensure both safety and a thriving social experience? That is still in the mix, but, for now it is in the hands of the students, observers say. Students talk to their peers, and when the talking is nothing but complaining about their school experience, those peers will look elsewhere to start their education.
“I love Ramapo for a lot of reasons; the campus is beautiful and I’m getting a great education.” says Vangelas. “But I tell my younger friends to steer clear because I don’t know what it’s going to become.”