Policing by the numbers

Ferris arrests fewer students for alcohol violations compared to GVSU, SVSU

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 12.15.09 PMThe number of minors caught with alcohol and referred to university disciplinary action has risen sharply compared to arrests in the residence halls at Ferris State University.

Alcohol referrals to disciplinary action on campus have risen 66 percent, from 246 referrals in 2012 to 409 in 2014. However, the number of arrests in Ferris’ residence halls has fallen by 55 percent from 49 to 22 in the same time period.

Ferris State University department of public safety has reported in their 2014 Annual Security and Fire Report the number of arrests and referrals to student conduct for alcohol violations. While the number of arrests has been relatively low compared to other universities— 49 in 2012, 18 in 2013 and 22 in 2014—the number of referrals to student conduct have been significantly higher with 246 in 2012, 360 in 2013 and 409 and 2014.

“There’s lots of ways for students to get alcohol. I hope they don’t get in trouble, but they need to be told ‘do not drink,’” said Ferris plastics engineering freshman Jay Jiang. “If they are taught better what will happen if they drink, I think students wouldn’t have as much trouble.”

Ferris director of the department of public safety (DPS) Bruce Borkovich said it’s not a policy change for his department to refer students to Student Conduct for discipline rather than giving tickets and sending them through the criminal system.

“We try to really use good judgement and a lot of discretion when we’re dealing with young people here,” said Borkovich. “If we catch you drinking and we find out you’ve never been in trouble before—you’ve been this perfect person and you’ve done everything right, you decided to drink this night, you’re not 21, you’re not arguing, you’re not fighting, you’re not lying or anything—very often the officers will just say, ‘You know what? We’re just going to send you to Student Conduct rather than write you a ticket, so you don’t get any kind of criminal record.’ That’s the discretion the officers have. They’ve used it well almost to a fault.”

Grand Valley State University has taken a much different approach on their Allendale campus. GVSU police make far more arrests than referrals to their student conduct: arrests in the residence halls have risen from 113 in 2012 to 149 in 2014 with a total of 361 arrests from 2012 to 2014. In the same time period, there were only nine referrals to student conduct for non-judicial punishments.

“Don’t drink at all if you’re underage,” said Ferris communications sophomore Taylor White. “Ferris maybe could have more workshops and education about drinking and what the consequences are, and maybe if the university had a fine. I’ve never had a ticket so I don’t know how it works, but people don’t want to get in trouble and pay money. So maybe a fine will get people to stop drinking on campus.”

“You have to be responsible for yourself because there isn’t anyone who will really watch you when you’re away from home. If people drink off campus, they need to be responsible, educate themselves and know their limits of drinking,” said White.

Saginaw Valley State University remains steady in the number of arrests on their campus from 2012 through 2014 as well as the number of student conduct referrals. Liquor law arrests at Saginaw Valley totaled 282 in their residence halls. Breaking down the numbers, 100 arrests were made in 2012, 71 in 2013 and 111 in 2014 by Saginaw Valley University police; 80 student referrals were made in 2012, 106 in 2013 and 74 in 2014.

“Most of the underage kids try to keep it on the down-low in the residence halls and not get caught. Even though they’re not causing trouble, they can still get in trouble because they’re underage and they’re not supposed to be drinking,” said Ferris building construction sophomore Marlena McAllister.

The punishment students get depends on how many times they’ve been referred to Student Conduct and the severity of each previous incident was.