Cracking the College Enforcement Initiative

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The raid by state police on a party at Haverford College and the “College Enforcement Initiative” cited in part as the raid’s cause have put many members of the college community on edge. Many questions have emerged to order the confusion generated from that raid: What is the College Enforcement Initiative? Why did the state police target Haverford? Will they target Swarthmore? What can be done to prevent that?

To answer these questions, the Gazette embarked on an in-depth investigation, interviewing members of law enforcement (from state to local), administrative officials, and students. Our research suggests that, at this particular juncture, the sole act of drinking underage at Swarthmore may imply more legal risk now than it has in recent years.

The Haverford Raid & The College Enforcement Initiative

“I think the bright lights came first, followed by a brief, confused silence, then lots of yelling,” described Haverford student Sophie Taylor ’10, who was present at the Haverford “Lloyd Around the World” party when the police showed up. On September 3rd, members of the State Police Bureau of Liquor Enforcement infiltrated the “Lloyd” party undercover, eventually citing 31 students from the Bi-Co for various alcohol-related crimes. The police raided the party following a tip from an anonymous student at Haverford combined with corroborating evidence from a “Lloyd” Facebook event.

In his interview with the Bi-Co News, Sgt. William La Torre of the Liquor Control Board notably indicated that the raid was one of many measures planned under the aegis of the College Enforcement Initiative, which entails an enhanced enforcement focus on underage drinking at colleges. La Torre, Commander of the district office for Delaware, Chester, and Philadelphia counties, said that the purpose of that initiative is to “get the word out” on college campuses about the penalties for underage drinking.

“Underage drinking, especially binge drinking, has a lot of negative consequences,” he said. “When you go to the hospital, or cause a fatality in a DUI situation, those are purely preventable; if you’re under 21, you weren’t supposed to be drinking anyway.”

The goal of the program, said La Torre, is to make a series of highly visible alcohol “busts” at various colleges and universities in the area, especially during September and October. The hope is that students will realize “what the penalties are” and then be able to “make an informed decision” about whether to drink.

As reflected by interviews performed by the Gazette, some student opinion—both here and at Haverford—is largely skeptical as to the effectiveness or appropriateness of such raids.

“Since they’re at a residential college, [drinkers] are not going to be drinking and driving. [Drinking] is really the college’s problem, they’re not going to be affecting the community,” Swarthmore student Julia Finkelstein ’13 said. “[The police response] was ridiculous.”

“No matter how strict a campus’s rules, students will drink. When drinking is forced underground, it makes people much less willing to jeopardize themselves and their friends by calling for help when necessary,” Taylor said.

When asked about concerns like these, La Torre said, “The legislators of Pennsylvania have deemed that if you’re under 21, you shouldn’t drink … All I can do is enforce the laws on the books. With respect to whether they break the law in private or in public, either way they’re breaking the law.”

Both the anonymous and named testimonies of witnessing partygoers submitted to the Bi-Co News evoke overwhelmingly negative impressions of the Haverford raid that go above and beyond just the citing of underage drinkers and (allegedly) belligerent partygoers.

Many thought it was a prank based on past pranks at Haverford, and claimed that some of the undercover officers did not promptly identify themselves once they began to take action in the party. Other accounts describe some of the officers as being derisive, insulting, and disrespectful; one individual describes officers deriding his gender-identity due to the color (purple) of the drink he was carrying, another describes officers laughing at pictures of arrested students on their camera, yet another individual describes being cursed at and threatened with arrest by an officer when the individual asked for their badge number.

“I think the way cops are viewed by kids—as an enemy, not an ally—is pretty dangerous, and is perpetuated by raids like this,” Taylor said.

Furthermore, though a report from the Liquor Control Board described the initiative [page 96; file is a 900kb PDF] as “a cooperative program with local and university law enforcement agencies,” during the raid at Haverford neither township police nor Haverford’s Safety & Security department were notified until the raid was under way. Their counterparts at Swarthmore, Chief Brian Craig of the Swarthmore borough police and Owen Redgrave of Public Safety, both said that the state police would be under no obligation to contact either organization were a similar raid to occur at Swarthmore.

In an interview with the Gazette, La Torre said that normally, his office works “hand-in-hand” with schools’ law enforcement agencies. In the Haverford incident, however, he cited two mitigating factors. One was that Haverford Safety & Security department, like Swarthmore’s Public Safety, is not a police agency. Although certain members of the department may be sworn police officers, the department falls entirely under the purview of the college administration. La Torre called that “really atypical;” larger schools generally handle their security through full police departments.

Moreover, the anonymous tipster at Haverford claimed that the administration was intentionally “turning a blind eye” towards underage drinking on campus, and by extension, campus security. Because La Torre’s office “didn’t know whether that allegation was true,” they wanted to “maximize the element of surprise” and so waited until arriving to contact Safety & Security. (Upon later investigation, La Torre said that his office “didn’t see any evidence” that the administration was behaving irresponsibly.)

In choosing locations for these busts, La Torre said each of the district offices “prioritizes universities and colleges that have a high violation rate,” as well as “colleges that have received grant money for enforcement” and “public safety departments that have communicated with us in the past.” (In Delaware County, the only organizations that received grant money from the Liquor Control Board this year were Cabrini College and the Haverford Township Police; the complete list is available online.)

Some schools, including Temple University, have requested the state police’s assistance in dealing with underage drinking problems on campus. If the department receives a tip or requests for help from anyone, they will look into it, as they did in the Haverford incident. In those situations, La Torre said that his unit “does a full investigation, using all resources available”—including Facebook. “We look for events that are advertised as occurring,” he said, “and then investigate further.”

Neither Swarthmore Borough police nor Public Safety have requested this kind of help, however. In an interview, Redgrave repeatedly emphasized that Public Safety’s approach to underage drinking—and indeed all offenses—is highly situational. “In broad strokes,” he said, “the College’s policy is not enforcement based on age as much as on behavior…in most cases we don’t even ask how old a person is, we simply evaluate the particular situation.” Instances where “there is a threat to themselves or to others” would certainly merit some form of intervention; a student staggering down the street on the way to Mary Lyons would probably just be offered a ride, said Redgrave.

The Swarthmore Police Department’s policy is necessarily more based on strict enforcement of the law. Chief Craig said, “When we become aware of [underage drinking], we do enforce” the relevant laws. Yet although the College campus is on their regular patrol routes, the “primary purpose of [those] patrols is the safety of everyone involved … they’re not specifically for underage drinking enforcement.” He said that Swarthmore police “do not go in buildings unless we have a specific call or need to do that.” His main concern with the issue, historically, has been that “the College handles things the way they’re supposed to,” especially with respect to local high school students showing up to College parties.

In the Haverford raid, students were only cited for underage drinking—no one was charged with the misdemeanor of providing alcohol to a minor. La Torre said that this is not true of all of his department’s activities at colleges. When it’s clear who is furnishing the alcohol, he said, as when “an undercover officer pays his $5 and gets his cup” for beer at a frat party, the officers may attempt to detain individuals identified as the providers first.

Some commentators have also taken note of the fact that the party at Haverford was outside, which is a legally distinct situation from if it was inside a college-owned (or private) building. La Torre verified that the distinction is sometimes meaningful, but wanted to dispel the notion that indoor spaces are completely off-limits from the police. “In many situations we would need a warrant,” he said, but “there are also many circumstances that would not require a warrant.” The observation of any crimes occurring “within plain view,” or when there are “exigent circumstances regarding someone’s health or welfare,” would fall into the latter category of circumstances.

La Torre called the whole situation of when warrants are required in the college context “very complicated,” and said that it would “take hours to hash out.” Rather than doing so, he noted that potential readers would probably “just be reading it for the best way not to get in trouble,” and said plainly: “The best way not to get in trouble is not to break the law.”

The Administration’s Response

At our press-time, the Dean’s Office had not collectively had an in-depth discussion specifically concerning the Haverford raid, but Dean of Students Garikai Campbell ’90 indicated that both the raid itself and the issues connected to it (the College Enforcement Initiative, underage drinking, etc.) had been a salient topic of discussion among the Dean’s Office staff at Swarthmore.

Campbell said that students’ handling of alcohol is a “particularly challenging issue on college campuses.”

“You have a group of people who are, during their time here, typically, coming into the age where they are making the transition from illegal to legal, and they’re learning about responsible habits and behaviors more generally,” Campbell said. “You don’t just go from never having drank alcohol to all-of-a-sudden drinking alcohol responsibly just because you turned 21.”

Both Campbell and Assistant Director for Student Life Kelly Wilcox ’97 described the college as offering a number of educational resources to assist students in making this transition, including (but not limited to): the “” program, the newly-formed DART team, alcohol-education workshops given to all 1st-years, alcohol-counseling provided by Alcohol Education and Intervention Specialist Tom Elverson ’75, and the support of the Dean’s Office as a whole.

“We want to give students the tools to look at their own behaviors … We want to be in the position of being collaborators [with the State authorities] in sending the message with regards to alcohol abuse, even if our strategies may differ,” Campbell said. “We feel that we are collaborators with many elements of the local community, and we invite collaboration with whoever we can. If there is a group that is thinking about us, I would love to have conversations with them—that’s the nature of the invitation.”

“Because of the energy we put toward that education [about responsible alcohol use], and in part because of our student body and the historical campus culture, I would argue that we have less of an issue with drinking than other places,” Campbell said. “But that does not diminish the fact that it is critically important to not rely on [past trends,] that we should remain vigilant about providing educational opportunities, and providing opportunities for students to behave legally.”

In Wilcox’s estimation, the Haverford raid has “added credibility to” efforts undertaken by the Dean’s Office to provide support for students on the issue of alcohol. After the raid, Wilcox sent an e-mail out to party hosts, PAs, and RAs reminding them that “it is really in student’s best interests to have party permits” so that both the administration and Public Safety are aware of events and their individual concerns, and so that the College can better respond to problems that may arise at any given event. Wilcox informally estimated that “within 24 hours” of the Haverford raid, the number of students coming for party permits for events small and large “increased 3-fold.”

With regards to the safety of Swarthmore parties, Wilcox also emphasized the role of the Party Associates in checking IDs, marking hands of students of age, managing guest sign-in, regulating crowd control, enforcing the terms of a given party permit, looking out for overly intoxicated students, and serving as first responders for incidents at parties. (Background reports to the Gazette indicate that, for the vast majority of weekend events occurring these past two weeks, Party Associates were on-site at parties checking IDs and enforcing entrance policies.)

“That [the Dean’s Office’s style] is to educate and to be a resource … is pretty unique to this campus, and it’s one of our strongest traits,” Wilcox said. She cited an example of a recent conversation wherein a student contacted her directly with concerns that drinks at a particular party had been mixed with high-proof grain alcohol that led partygoers to significantly underestimating their alcohol consumption. Wilcox used her party-permit records to contact the host of that party. “Within 5 minutes,” the former host had responded to Wilcox to address her remarks, and indicated the specific measures they would take to resolve said concern at future events they would host.

“I really appreciated the fact that a student felt comfortable enough to share their concern … and the willingness of the host to communicate,” Wilcox said. “I wasn’t interested in adjudicating, I was interested in moving forward, in going ‘here on out, how can I make this event safe?’ … No student on campus should be surprised by what’s in their drink.”

Wilcox also emphasized that while the administration is not tolerant of lawbreaking occurring at parties hosted on-campus, that their primary focus with regards to underage drinkers is their safety. “Don’t hesitate to ask seek help: any ramifications of a citation or anything else would be minor compared to ensuring someone’s safe, healthy, and being taken care of,” Wilcox said.

Effects on Campus Life

At Haverford, campus attention has been focused on not only how to make the campus less of a target for future raids, but how to make future parties less visible to individuals outside of the college community. According to Taylor, the Haverford administration sent out numerous e-mails to the student body following the raid, including one “advising to take all alcoholic events off Facebook, reminding us that the [Haverford Honor Code]’s rule against advertising alcohol stretches to media such as Facebook, in addition to fliers.” In Taylor’s view, in this way and others, Haverford students are becoming more discreet in their advertising for parties.

In addition, a Bi-Co News article writes that at a recent student-only forum on the raid and Haverford’s alcohol policy, suggestions as to how to prevent future raids “included making Tri-Co ID’s necessary to get into any party, insisting that students wear a wristband for every drink they’ve had, taking more accountability for guests, putting an end to outdoor drinking, and redefining a ‘private party.’”

Taylor said that, despite the somewhat traumatic effects the raid has had on Haverford’s campus, that “this [past weekend,] there have still been parties, but on a smaller, closer-knit scale.”

“Haverford has such a friendly, open feel. I don’t think it will change easily, and I sort of hope it doesn’t,” Taylor said.

At Swarthmore, student conversation has concentrated in part on the question of whether Swarthmore will be targeted, and, if so, when. A member of DU said that last weekend’s Toga Party saw “noticeably fewer” attendees than it had in past years, though there were still “a decent amount of people” who showed up. He attributed that decline to rumors that the police might be conducting a raid on Saturday night. Although to his knowledge there was no reason to think that DU in particular might be targeted, “a lot of people were worried that the cops were coming” to DU. “These things kind of take a life of their own,” he said. “There was an email from the Worth RAs, and then that circulated.”

Indeed, an email sent this past weekend to residents of the Worth dormitory by the Worth RAs warned students to be especially cautious of many activities on Saturday night in particular, especially those involving drinking outside or transporting alcohol across campus, and advised students to contact the DART team should they have any alcohol-related issues over the weekend. Although many RAs sent emails to their halls with similar warnings, the Worth email was circulated widely around campus by residents. The email stated that a member of the administration had told them there was “reason to believe that we should be extremely vigilant this weekend,” which led the RAs to write that they believed “we will likely be targeted this weekend.”

“It’s important that we comply and do these little things to keep each other safe … We don’t want to give the state police a reason to cite 30+ students,” the RAs stated in their e-mail. Despite fears to the contrary, no such “raids” occurred this weekend. However, two students were hospitalized showing symptoms of alcohol poisoning this past Friday, and both were cited for drinking while underage. (More details on the incident are forthcoming.)

“The raids represent a way of trying to get the message to students that drinking underage is against the law, and that there are reasons why the law exist … that it’s not just a non-issue, and that [the state police] are doing what they feel are good actions to get that message across,” Campbell said. “We don’t want to be in a position of being at odds with that message.”

Correction Appended: The Gazette had initially been informed by two individuals involved in hosting the Delta Upsilon Toga Party that the party was not SAC funded, and as such conveyed our primary source’s impression that it was unusual that Party Associates were present at said party; however, SAC members and the President of DU have confirmed to the Gazette that the party did receive SAC funding, rendering said impression factually unfounded. The above article has been altered to reflect this new information.

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