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Officer’s comments cause controversy

An article printed in the Rutland Herald on Wednesday, Sept. 16, has been the source of recent debate around The Castleton State College campus and the surrounding community.The article titled “Police: Student drinking intensifies,” quickly became the most commented story on the Herald’s message board, providing a lengthy script of back-and-forth banter between supporters and cynics. Some said that drinking was indeed out of hand; others claimed the police had been unreasonable.

The story originated when Rutland Herald reporter Brent Curtis received a press release authorized by the Castleton Police Department. The release, according to Castleton Police Chief Bruce Sherwin, contained only “sufficient facts about the incident,” such as date, time, location, and the fact that warrants had been issued to search the house at Crystal Meadows where a large party had been thrown.

Additional comments from Castleton Police Officer Cheri McDermott were obtained when Curtis did some extra investigating. McDermott,

speaking about alcohol-related incidents in Castleton, was quoted in the Herald as saying,

“I think it’s been a bigger problem than I’ve ever seen in my four years here.”

This was information not printed in the original press release, and therefore not authorized by the police department. McDermott could not provide a comment on the incident citing “department policy.” When asked if there would be any repercussions for McDermott’s comments, Sherwin said he would “not be commenting on the issue.”

Following the release of this article, there was a general sense of contempt among the student body. Senior business management student Jeff Dayton responded with disdain for McDermott’s comments.

“I think the whole incident was overblown. What are they trying to do, stop underage
drinking completely? That’s never going to happen. Did she really have to call in police officers from different towns to break up a college party? I don’t think so,” he said heatedly. “And the whole thing about drinking being a bigger problem than ever is just propaganda. It’s the same scene as when I was a freshman. It’s no better, but it’s definitely no worse.”

President Dave Wolk, although disappointed that such an even took place, also felt that the article misrepresented the student body as a whole.

“If you think about it, that one incident was comprised of less than one percent of the student body. It’s not representative
of the way the vast majority of students treat each other or their neighbors,” he said. “But I do understand why that was printed on the front page – that’s what sells papers. They have a job to do, too.”

Castleton’s Town Manager,
Charles Jacien, echoed Wolk’s feelings.

“The town absolutely does not have a feeling that things are any worse or different than ever before,” he said emphatically in a telephone interview. “It’s understood that it’s the beginning of the school year and activities like this seem to follow a certain pattern.”

Dean of Students Dennis Proulx felt that the original article was fairly-balanced and that these types of things need to and should be reported.

He felt bad, however, that the article “documented our students as not being good citizens.”

Wolk agreed.

“I think the college and its students have a great relationship with the community.

Students here are generally very polite and very good neighbors. I find this place to be a very friendly and mature place — way more than at some other schools,” he said emphatically. “I wouldn’t trade being here for anywhere else.