Fairfield University was ranked number one statewide in reported alcohol violations last year with 651 reported incidents filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Secondary Education’s annual campus crime report.

First reported in the Connecticut Post, Fairfield was also ranked the 28 highest school for reported violations nationwide. But, not to worry, it may not be as bad as it seems.

“I know it looks like we’ve got more alcohol problems than other schools,” said Mark Reed, dean of students, to the Connecticut Post. “We know that’s not the case.”

One of the possible

explanations for Fairfield’s high ranking was in the schools

varying interpretation of a violation as described in the Clery Act.

The Clery Act requires universities and colleges to furnish their security statistics every year. Fairfield University published a booklet in the fall which lists all violations and is distributed across campus to students, faculty and the public.

The University of Connecticut, home to over 25,000 students, listed only 136 liquor violations according to the report. This number may seem very low considering the large student population. The university police only reported the arrests made for alcohol violations, not the “unverified” judicial referrals made by housing officials like resident advisors, according to the Post.

Jeanne DiMuzio, director of wellness and prevention, stood by Fairfield’s numbers which show all violations, no matter who handled them, police, security or housing staff.

“Truth in reporting sends a strong and positive message that we as a community respond to the violation of the policies set by the state and local authorities, insuring a seamless understanding that use of alcohol by students under the age of 21 is prohibited both on and off campus and it will be addressed,” she said.

“The Clery Act was instated to provide the current community and its prospective students with an honest snapshot of life on campus,” she said. “If violations are reported within the guidelines set forth then it is our responsibility as a community to truthfully report these stats.”

Reed agreed with DiMuzio and lauded Fairfield’s honest reporting methods.

“I think what you see is that Fairfield University attempts to report information in as forthcoming and accurate a manner as possible,” he said. “Anyone familiar with the Clery Act and the reporting requirements it stipulates knows that a comparison of campus crime reports does not always provide you with comparable data compiled and reported in the exact same way.”

Sacred Heart University was ranked second in the state with 474 recorded liquor violations in 2003. The University of Hartford reported 426, Quinnipiac 417 and Southern Connecticut State University had 185 liquor violations. Connecticut also boasted a slightly higher underage drinking average than the nation, 51 to 49 percent.

The U.S. Department of Education Web site also listed ways to alleviate alcohol and drug problems on college campuses. Several of the methods have already been instituted by Fairfield.

The methods included offering and enforcing intervention and education programs. The Wellness and Prevention office provides these to all students during orientation. Violators must attend additional alcohol education classes and at-risk drinkers can be identified through a screening test.

Another way to monitor the drinking is through a collaborative effort between the community police department and the university. Students who are ticketed or arrested at the beach for violations are also entered into Fairfield’s judicial system to face additional repercussions. Others included offering a safe ride program, making alcohol harder to access and marketing the ills of alcohol.

DiMuzio wanted the student body to realize the importance of their actions and the reported violations.

“Behind those numbers is a community that cares about its students and the learning that needs to take place during this transition from connected family support to independent decision making and all the consequences that accompany them,” she said.

Reed also credited a strict disciplinary code and a discipline reporting system, which allowed Fairfield to gather a complete picture of violations, according to the Post.

The actions of the students themselves cannot be overlooked as the most significant factor contributing to the high number of violations, according to Paul Duffy, FUSA president.

“I think it is a matter of honest reporting and ultimately it comes down to the individual causing themselves to get in trouble,” said Duffy. “If they were more careful and responsible with how they handled themselves with their adult choices then maybe we wouldn’t have as many reports.”

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