Since when did doing the right thing get you in trouble? One would think that it should be the other way around, right?
But doing the right thing these days is getting Castleton State College students in trouble with the law. Students choosing to walk back to campus after a night of partying rather than hopping in a car are increasingly being stopped by the police and getting ticketed for underage drinking.
Students say while they realize underage drinking is illegal, it’s inevitable.
“It is pretty much impossible to stop,” said Raven Naramore, a junior at Castleton. “A college campus anywhere is going to have underage drinking. Castleton is just like any other college.”
So, if someone has chosen to make this decision, students wonder why should they get penalized for being responsible and walking back to campus?
What would be the smart alternative, to get in your car and drive, they wonder?
“Castleton is a small community, most of the parties happen within a mile of campus anyway, so it is easier for students to just want to get in a car, but walking back is the right decision to make,” Naramore said.
Castleton Police Chief Bruce Sherwin said a local team of police officers from various departments was targeting underage drinkers soon after school started this semester, but he said there isn’t any overall increased effort to crack down on the practice.
He also said that officers aren’t stopping students who are simply walking, but rather those who are noticeably intoxicated and a potential danger to themselves or others.
And he stressed that by no means does this mean students should jump back behind the wheel in order to avoid an underage drinking ticket.
“I have thought about that and I’d rather have them do the smart thing and walk,” he said.
Castleton State College officials say they would rather that underage students not drink at all.
“I would rather have them not violate the law, than to violate the law,” said Dean of Students Gregory Stone. “Kids are basically get ticketed on campus if they are using alcohol. What we are trying to tell people is that is a violation of the law. This campus does not tolerate violating the law.”
Despite two telephone calls to police in Fair Haven, where tickets are also being issued to students, the calls weren’t returned.
Some students, like Erika Tintle, feel that if police continue to ticket students walking back from parties, they will simply resort to getting back into cars.
“I do not think underage drinking will go away. It is college and kids are ‘free’ and away from their parents and most rules, so I think underage drinking will continue,” she said. “I think the tickets will just make kids more cautious as to where they are going. With all the tickets I actually think kids will turn to driving to their parties or back to campus. I think the tickets could backlash and cause more problems because now kids don’t want to do the safe thing and walk.”
Stone had a different thought on the ticket topic. He sees the tickets as a learning tool.
“Hopefully it’s a message that isn’t too painful, but painful enough so people change their behavior,” Stone said.
Also frustrating students is that not all underage drinkers have been issued tickets. Naramore was stopped by Fair Haven Police while walking and decided to say something to the officer.
“They turned around and came back and starting accusing me of drinking, and I said, ‘you guys shouldn’t be pulling over people for walking, because you are just promoting drinking and driving. I told them I had heard about a bunch of kids who drive back now, because they don’t want to get pulled over for walking. Then they told me I could go, and ‘walk safe,'” said Naramore.
So are ‘want me to get in car instead’ the magic words to get out of a walking drinking ticket? Maybe.
Despite the tickets, students like Tintle say it simply makes sense to walk back.
“No, I do not think students should be penalized for walking back to campus. I mean yes, “public displays of drunkeness” are not good, but walking to a destination intoxicated is better than putting your life and other lives in trouble by getting behind the wheel,” she said.