Randy Young, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said penalties for students caught drinking underage have not changed, but the department has made other changes to the standards for reporting liquor violations and issuing citations.
“I think there are new safety measures which can help to enhance their safety,” he said.
Young said the citations are not all from DPS. A student who is caught drinking underage can be referred to DPS by the Department of Housing and Residential Education and other departments, he said.
There were 682 citations issued in residence halls in 2013 — more than double the number of referrals DPS got from residence halls in 2012.
Associate Director of Housing Rick Bradley said this increase is likely due to increased accuracy in reporting rather than changes in housing’s alcohol policies.
The Clery Act requires U.S. universities to report campus crime statistics annually.
“The Clery numbers now, there’s been clarification that the actual reporting is to be the number of participants involved in an alcohol incident,” Bradley said. “Better interpretation of reporting — that is leading to higher numbers.”
Bradley said the number of people in the room when someone is caught drinking underage equals the number of students cited — and people are now paying more attention to that rule when reporting.
“It’s not like we’re retraining the RA staff,” Bradley said. “There’s alcohol present in an underage student room and there’s six people, it counts as six violations.”
Bradley said he thinks UNC is doing more to prevent underage drinking.
“I think the University has become increasingly more interested in finding ways to curtail particularly binge drinking and underage drinking,” Bradley said.
Marc Cohen, faculty adviser for UNC’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said underage drinking is a problem on college campuses because students are seeking to experiment and take advantage of being away from home for the first time.
“Not only is binge drinking a problem, but so are the issues associated with it: sexual assault, drinking and driving, physical injury,” he said.
DPS and the University are taking the Clery report findings seriously and are working to improve students’ safety, Young said.
“I think also it’s an ever-evolving environment and there are always new concerns,” he said.