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Is Penn State Out of Control?

The source of all evil

At the State Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing held in the borough yesterday, you might think students were the bane of the existence of adults, or dogs in one of Pavlov’s studies. It seems that the senators and speakers forgot about their times in college, talking about the students as if they were unable to regulate themselves without the heavy, cumbersome hand of the law.

The alarming statistics given by Police Chief Tom King are not surprising:

  • the average blood alcohol content of students at the Mount Nittany Medical Center Emergency Department was 0.253 (more than triple the limit for driving),
  • 1494 citations for alcohol related offenses in the borough last year,
  • almost $23 millions dollars of liquor sales at state stores in the area, and so it goes.

The borough administrators bemoaned the declining tax revenues, and seemed convinced that if they could just get money from increased fines, State College would become a utopia. A member of Borough Council told of the damage to his property, with litter and broken fixtures as the main complaint, in addition to the occasional attempted burglary by a drunk student. With 65% of the borough population between 18-24 years old, perhaps it is time to let students come up with an autochthonous order, and regulate each other.

State Senator Jake Corman introduced bills to raise the fines for alcohol related offenses to a maximum $1000, which he hopes would act as a deterrent as well as raise revenue for the local municipality (but really, when you’re drunk, are you going to remember how much the fines are for any given action?). In addition, there would be an option where a local municipality could impose an additional fee on those convicted. However, the discussion lacked solid evidence that there is a deterrent effect from increased fines, as was highlighted by IFC President Max Wendkos. Given the precarious economic state of municipalities in the Commonwealth, this is a perfect way to raise more revenue. Further, these bills do not address the fundamental issues of alcohol abuse, for which there is strong evidence of a genetic predisposition. One interesting proposal was a solution instituted at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, which is affiliated with Penn State. There,  they have an “impaired student holding area,” or drunk-tank, where police take intoxicated students, monitor them while they sleep, and then send them a bill for a few hundred dollars.

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