NAVA: Alcohol, the university and you: be aware of MU’s drinking policy

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The wisdom of a recently consumed Chinese fortune cookie advised me to be “cautious of undertakings made in ignorance.” Even before the meal’s MSG could hit me, the thought of alcohol at Marquette came to mind.

The cookie touched on the troubling reality that too many students are unaware of probably the most relevant rule governing underage college life at Marquette: No alcohol.

Before I elaborate, I’d like to make an important disclosure. Like you, I find many creative ways to distract myself from homework, and one such occupation is chairman of a student conduct board at Marquette. The proceedings of this board are entirely confidential in order to protect the privacy of students who run afoul of university regulations.

However, everything that I’m about to say can be found in the 2010-’11 edition of “At Marquette,” the student manual that comes free with your payment of $30,000 in tuition.

So, I share my cookie-inspired opinion solely as someone who read the last 10 pages of the manual.

Like any respectable mystery novel, the last chapter of this page-turner will shock you. But this book surely isn’t fiction. It’s your reality, and if you aren’t careful, it can cost you dearly.

I’ll let the manual speak for itself: “Violating the university alcohol policy. This includes but is not limited to such behaviors as underage students being in the presence of or using alcoholic beverages or any student being intoxicated on or off campus.”

Did you catch that? Simply being near someone’s filled shot glass as an underage student is forbidden.

Even the staunchest of nondrinkers, like an Amish or a Mormon student, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time can end up in the jaws of the university’s conduct system.

I imagine this is the misfortune of many unadvised students.

This could be you: It’s Saturday night, and you leave the library after hours of studying to relax and watch a movie with your roommates in the dormitory. Midway through the movie, a random guy armed with a beer can walks into your room. Milliseconds later, your beloved resident assistant knocks, and the next thing you hear is: “Put your student IDs on the table and hands in the air!”

Coupled with your transcript of straight As, a disciplinary note about your alcohol “incident” becomes an indelible record that you must painstakingly explain to graduate schools, employers and your future mother-in-law.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse from the law. And so I join the cookie in warning everyone: Beware of undertaking your college education in ignorance of the rules of the university.

The goal of Marquette’s alcohol intolerance seems hopelessly quixotic. Milwaukee is, after all, the home of the Brewers, and our beautiful campus sits in the shadows of the Miller Brewery. Bars and liquor stores in stumbling distance of campus outnumber bookstores and libraries combined.

And you can certainly anticipate the Second Coming on the day that college students quit drinking.

But the alcohol policy is more pedagogical than practical. Rules that ban alcohol in the residence halls are lessons about respect for self, others and the law.

Another lesson may come from some sobering statistics: Drinking presents barriers to academic and social success.

According to the Core Institute, abuse of alcohol is a leading cause of truancy, exam failures and attrition. Alcohol is also a culprit in 90 percent of all rapes on college campuses. (Although this statistic is a little inconsistent compared to other sites I saw).

“Blame it on the a-a-alcohol.”

Many will disagree. College, they argue, is a time of unrestrained, parent-less freedom to eat, drink and be merry.

Your college undertaking is whatever you make of it. But while we are free to choose our actions, we are powerless to choose their consequences. So what happens at two in the morning on a Friday night in McCormick Hall actually may matter a few years down the road.

Spare yourself the disciplinary and academic hangovers of drinking. Drink to your future.

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