Liquor police: 'Our presence was requested'
The BLCE was invited to patrol on and around campus by DPS
April 9, 2014, 6:40 pm · Updated April 10, 2014, 2:55 am·
A c rackdown on underage drinking will change the landscape of this year’s Spring Fling.
Officers from the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement will patrol on and around campus this Fling at the request of the Division of Public Safety.
“Specifically for Spring Fling, our presence was requested” by DPS, said BLCE Sergeant Dan Steele, who is the commander of the Philadelphia district office.
As a result of increased police activity, many student groups have decided to not host parties with alcohol on campus. As of press time, over 1,400 students have also said on Facebook that they will attend a peaceful “Free Fling” protest on College Green today against the “administration’s crackdown” on the annual Penn celebration.
Last year’s Fling saw a new collaboration between the BLCE and DPS in enforcing alcohol regulations over the weekend, with over 30 students cited for underage drinking.
Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said that DPS invited BLCE to campus for Fling this year because “it’s much more effective for Penn officers to work with BLCE.”
“With or without us, they will be here,” Rush said. “We have the same intentions ... our goal is not about being punitive.” She stressed that DPS’s primary aim is student safety. “Our goal is not to spend our time citing students,” Rush added.
The crackdown on underage alcohol consumption has been especially prominent in the Greek community.
On April 2, Penn requested that the BLCE meet with students from the Greek “problem houses” — a group of about 12 houses affiliated with on- and off-campus fraternities on DPS’s radar. At the meeting, DPS and BLCE emphasized that liquor enforcement officers would be handing out citations and felonies.
People hosting parties where alcohol is being served to minors can be arrested for a misdemeanor of the third degree, Rush said. Hosts “will actually be taken in handcuffs,” Steele added.
Fraternity members were also warned at last Wednesday’s meeting that officers who looked like students will be infiltrating Fling parties to see if alcohol is being supplied to minors. “Undercover work is our speciality, so to speak,” Steele said. If you walk into a large party this weekend, “know that you’re probably going to meet an BLCE officer,” Rush added.
Many students feel that this year’s policies were communicated in an unreasonable way. “‘We are coming to get you’ is the tone everyone left that meeting with,” said a College junior and member of an on-campus fraternity who wished to remain anonymous because he did not want his comments to be affiliated with his fraternity.
Fraternity members are also confused with some of this year’s policies.
“Everyone has a responsibility to make sure people have fun safely,” the College junior said. “But people are going to drink elsewhere,” he said, outlining the dangers of drinking further away from support services.
He added that there is “a disconnect between what everyone is trying to accomplish out of Fling and the policies to try and get there.”
Fraternity members also expressed concern with how difficult it is to register parties with alcohol. The University does not allow registered parties on the Friday of Fling, for example.
Julie Lyzinski Nettleton, director of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Program Initiative, explained in an emailed statement that it is University policy that parties do not clash with classes during the day and the concert on that night.
Only two parties with alcohol have been registered for Thursday night, three for Saturday afternoon and one on Saturday night, although Nettleton said that more student groups could have applied to register parties. Four fraternities are planning to host dry events on Saturday as well, Nettleton added.
Members of Penn’s administration do not notice a significant change in the University’s approach to alcohol regulation at Fling this year. “We’re following the blueprint from the last few years,” Rush said.
Director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life Scott Reikofski added that he hasn’t “seen anything that’s radically different [in the University’s approach].” He noted, however, that with regards to the BLCE, the “sense is that they’re going to be more visible” this weekend.
Last year’s collaboration with the BLCE began after the agency’s new commanding officer reached out to all universities in the area saying that BLCE would be “putting major emphasis on problems at university campuses,” Rush said.
An off-campus fraternity member and College senior who wished to remain anonymous described last year’s Fling regulations as the “apex of the crackdown.” But he said that this year’s regulations are “really taking it to a new level.”
As a result, off-campus fraternities are moving most gatherings “further away from University campus,” said a College senior in an off-campus fraternity. A few other fraternities have decided to organize a party in New Jersey this weekend. “We’re trying to stay quiet this week,” the College senior added.