Breathalyzers at westminster

For the past few weeks, rumors of breathalyzers at school dances have been floating around amongst students. Seeing as we have been asked to write a column about our concerns over the introduction of breathalyzers, it’s pretty safe to say that the breathalyzers at the very least are a reality. As far as enforcement of the disciplinary code is concerned, we both feel that Westminster should not make an active effort to penalize students for what they do off of Westminster property. Granted, if a parent or concerned citizen reports a student for a violation, the school is somewhat unlikely to look the uneasy parent in the eye and say, “We are not going to enforce the rules in our own handbook.” On the whole, Westminster does a good job of knowing its boundaries. It also largely does not go out of its way to punish students, but both of us have seen several cases blown out of proportion, primarily because the testimony given by the concerned member of the community was either intentionally exaggerated or accidentally worded in a way that could allow the punitive elements of our fine academic institution to take liberties with the community member’s interpretation, resulting in an artificially high level of severity in dealings with the culpable party.

On-campus violations are a different matter entirely. Once you step onto the Westminster campus, the “powers that be” have every right to search your car, backpack, and pockets if they feel like you may have something in your possession that would place you in violation of the rules in the handbook. So, when it comes to breathalyzers at school dances, we have no real objections. If you cross onto the Westminster campus intoxicated, you are bringing trouble right to the front door of the people whose job it is to make sure that you are punished for being intoxicated, and if you get breathalyzed and found to have alcohol on your breath, there is no one to blame besides yourself.

In our humble opinions, Westminster is not implementing this policy for the sake of busting students for alcohol related violations; they simply do not want students to be drunk at school events. By making the policy of breathalyzing at school dances public knowledge, Westminster has let the student body know that there can be very serious disciplinary consequences for showing up at a dance drunk. Therefore, in the minds of the administration, now that students have this knowledge, they will not show up intoxicated, and Westminster will not be liable for the actions of intoxicated students. We agree that this new policy should cut down on drinking at these events; it will probably also cut down on attendance.

While the breathalyzing process is completely randomized, it would be natural for the students who have been picked for breathalyzing to feel as if their privacy has been violated. Let’s explore a hypothetical situation. A freshman girl shows up to the dance after being dropped off by her parents with a few of her friends. She has never been to a high school dance before, and she is naturally a bit nervous. As she is walking to the dance, she sees Ms. Fondren, who is carrying the list of students who are to be randomly tested, and to no fault of either party, the name of the girl has shown up on the list. Ms. Fondren would have to pull her away from her friends to administer the test. No matter how sober the girl is and how friendly Ms. Fondren is while she gives the test, this would still be a very intimidating experience that could drive sober students like this hypothetical freshman girl away from dances. While we are not against breathalyzers, we recognize that the testing process would be intimidating under any circumstances.

In conclusion, the issue of breathalyzers can be avoided by following one simple rule: Not pre-gaming the dance. These dances are usually on Thursdays with a late arrival the next day. That extra hour is not going to cure a hangover, and no one wants to be clutching his head and dragging his way through the school day. That misery would not outweigh the slight bit of extra fun you may have had at the consistently thrilling school dances. Personally, we feel that drinking on the Westminster campus is just asking for trouble, and that the introduction of breathalyzers is merely the school’s enforcement of its own rules on its own campus.