January 31, 2012

The Nation’s Third Oldest College Newspaper

Volume 82, Issue 7

Students, administrators offer mixed views on Canada position

Niagara University is considering its Canada-based student activities. (photos by Laurens Merrick)

Niagara University is considering its Canada-based student activities. (photos by Laurens Merrick)

Did someone just say NU events won't be in Canada anymore?
This question has been asked repeatedly by NU students both in the fall and now spring semester. The simple answer is certain events will be allowed, while others won't.
The idea of a Canada directive, which Vice President for Student Affairs Kevin Hearn said should be referred to as Niagara's current position on university trips to Canada, has been causing some turbulence among NUSGA, the student body and the administration.
Essentially, events in Canada, in which the main purpose would revolve around alcohol consumption, are currently prohibited.
NUSGA Student Body President Chris Zukas said students are absolutely not in favor of this move.
Junior Alan Trinca said, Canada events are the only ones that students really look forward to and, by removing those trips, we undermine the liberty of our students to make their own decisions. Some people drink and some don't. But when it is legal, the choice should be theirs, not the school's.
Zukas said the main reason most students he has spoken with disagree with the current position is the fear of a loss of tradition.
He said the previous way of celebrating many events at the end of the year, such as the freshman social, sophomore semi-formal and junior formal, would violate university rules if the position officially turns into policy.
 Hearn said these events jeopardize the safety of students and can create liability issues.
I came to find out that there wasn't an effort on our part to follow policy in regard to programs in Ontario, he said. I knew when I stopped this students wouldn't be happy, but there was a safety issue “ there was an ethical issue. I'm a big fan of tradition, but I'm not a fan of past practice dictating future responsibilities.
The debate started in October when the Junior Class event Ugly Sweater Party at the Hard Rock in Canada was cancelled.
NUSGA Programming Director Nina Williams said, Students want to be able to go to Canada and drink and have a blast. Of course they want to go to Canada. It's worked for so many years; why change it now?
The reason, Hearn said, is simple.
I had heard from advisors that there were people coming back intoxicated, despite the fact that we had put restrictions in place about how much you can drink, he said. We were facilitating programs that allowed students to go to Ontario and drink. ¦ That put students in violation of the student code of conduct, which said we will not be sponsoring activities anywhere where students underage can drink.
Despite the student code of conduct, students still have concerns with the recent hold on these events.
Senior Dino Petrera said, I fear that in making it even more taboo, the irresponsible individuals who would have abused it in the first place would only have an increased desire to do so.
Junior Lamont Singletary said, For those who actually do drink, I don't see why they should have a problem with us having the junior formal and events in Canada, because it's legal over there. And also, if they are able to come across the border patrol and able to cross the bridge without being questioned by police officers, I don't see why ... our school can't let it go. I'm pretty sure they have more authority of saying who's drunk and who's not.
An example of a more casual, mid-semester event that would be prohibited is a bowling night in Canada where students ages 19 and 20 would be able to access and consume alcohol.
We are not going to entertain drinking with a side of bowling, Hearn said. The last thing Ontario wants is 50 drunk 19 year olds running out on Clifton Hill. That's not good for our relationship with our neighbors to the north.
Williams said, overall, she's on the fence about the issue. She said some of the other NUSGA cabinet members are, too.
I don't think students understand or respect what the risk that people like (campus activities directors) Mati Ortiz and Bill Newton are taking (when bringing) 50 students where they can drink, where they can become obnoxious, and then taking them back to America. ¦ Being someone who plans events, I understand that, but at the same time, because I am a student, I trust the students.
Senior Aubreyanna Curtis said, I think the safely and liability of any trip is a big deal, even when the trips are in the U.S. They face those things no matter what. If students can't be responsible, then don't let them go back on a trip.
Hearn approached NUSGA to gather information before the policy would be written.
NUSGA was instructed to do market research, talk to the university counsel, look at policies belonging to other nearby schools regarding events involving alcohol consumption over the border, and talk to border patrol.
My anxiety is I brought it to them in October,. and we have all these students that want to be planning now. ¦ We need to start making some decisions, Hearn said.
Williams admits that this issue has not been at the top of the NUSGA cabinet members' priority list.
We've really only talked about this a small handful of times “ the majority of time it is brought up between NUSGA and student affairs. It usually is just the conversation that just ends badly where we get in a large argument, she said.
Zukas said NUSGA has not yet come to a final resolution. He noted, There was an entire month and a half of clarification. I think that's something he's neglecting to point out. We were told to do our duty and due diligence and do the research “ that's what we've done.
The current situation is leaving student planners in somewhat of a freeze.
Until we have a policy that better understands how to protect students and the university, let's not do it, Hearn said.
Other, non-drinking-related events in Ontario, such as the recent trip to Medieval Times in Toronto, as well as Blue Jays baseball games, would not be prohibited or against policy.
An open meeting was scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 29, but Hearn was unable to attend. Zukas said he has since called to arrange an appointment with Hearn in hopes of clearing up any miscommunication and to go over detailed plans for moving forward.
There has not been an established date for another open forum-style meeting for all students.  
In the meantime, Hearn encouraged students to stop by his office in the back left corner of the Lower Level Gallagher Center to discuss any questions, concerns and ideas they may have.

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