Confusion surrounds dry week, despite no change

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This year’s dry week was surrounded by confusion, despite the fact that the policy regarding alcohol during orientation did not change from recent years.

Many students were under the impression that “dry week” meant that the consumption of alcohol is not permitted by anyone during orientation. In fact, the policy, according to the student handbook, stipulates that alcoholic beverages may not be served at parties or other events that take place during orientation (as well as during vacation periods, reading days, and finals periods). Students may not register parties or events with alcohol permits until the first Saturday after classes begin each semester. This policy has remained unchanged for many years and was noted in the student handbook this year, said Assistant Dean and Director of Student Engagement Rachel Head said via email.

Several seniors confirmed, however, that their Resident Assistants had told them that they were not permitted to consume alcohol at all until the first Saturday. Head said that the Dean’s office had sought to clear up this information.

“I think there was some initial confusion within the RA group and the early returns about the difference between having an event and having an event where alcohol is present that requires a party permit,” Head said. “Once we became aware of the confusion, we worked to give the RAs clarifying information.”

The college handbook defines parties as social functions where alcohol may be served — according to alcohol permit rules — in a designated campus party space with more than ten students present. According to the handbook, this does not seem to apply to private events held with fewer than ten students in non-party spaces.

Many students felt that dry week lasted longer this year than in previous years, even though this was not the case. Head attributed some of this impression to the lengthy early return period.

“We try and be as flexible as possible with students who need to return early for college-sponsored reasons, such as UPenn classes, faculty research, fall athletics, etc.,” Head said. “Because we’re flexible on the date, some upperclass students arrive up to two weeks early and it might feel as though the substance-free period is several weeks long when, in fact, it is only until the first Saturday.”

Typically the first week of classes also includes a dry Pub Nite where students drink root beer rather than the usual Pub Nite beverage. This event did not take place this year.

Students were still permitted to hold all-campus events, such as the Wharton courtyard party on the Friday of the first week of classes. Party organizers said that no alcohol was served or present, and that they had spoken with Public Safety, the Office of Student Engagement, and RAs in order to hold the event but that they had not secured any sort of party permit.

“The students who initiated the Wharton event on Friday requested use of that space for a dry event, which we granted,” Head said.

It also appeared that at least some students consumed alcohol publicly during dry week. On the Sunday before classes began, Public Safety entered Sharples during dinner time and confiscated hard alcohol from a group of students. One of the students was written up by Public Safety and required to speak to Joshua Ellow, the college’s alcohol and other drugs counselor.

Head explained that the rationale behind the dry-week policy is partially logistical, as it takes a few days for SwatTeam to get organized, the RA-on-call schedule to be established, and for the traditional event resources to get up and running.

“We’ve found that by the time Welcome Weekend concludes, usually right after the student activities fair, students are ready to begin planning and hosting events,” Head said.

The policy also helps to smooth first-years’ transition to the college, Head explained.

“We think it is important to support an environment for first-years to adjust to campus without alcohol and drugs playing a role in that adjustment,” she said.

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