On Tuesday night, former law and liquor enforcement officer Frank Lyons held an information session about Maine liquor laws at MacMillan House. The event was organized in a collaborative effort by the Brunswick Police Department (BPD), Higher Education Alcohol Prevention Partnership (HEAPP), Communities Against Substance Abuse (CASA), and the Office of Residential Life. The session was geared toward educating students about alcohol laws applicable to hosting a party on a college campus.
Lyons focused mainly on situations involving alcohol in which Bowdoin students could potentially find themselves legally culpable for damages. Lyons' audience was composed mainly of Residential Life staff and College House residents.
"Having been a law enforcement officer for 30 years...I've had to deal with many instances where underage or high-risk drinking in a college environment [have] ended up with a tragedy that could have been prevented simply by students making better informed decisions and taking better care of one another," said Lyons. "[This] program...was actually developed for college students...to make them better aware of the liquor laws and the serious negative outcomes beyond an arrest or a fine."
Lyons outlined the three major liquor laws that most often get Bowdoin students in trouble—possession of alcohol, consumption of alcohol and furnishing alcohol or allowing a minor to possess it. For the first two laws, if the offender is 18 or older it is considered a civil violation.The penalties for these offenses are eclipsed by those given to individuals found guilty of furnishing. The penalties for furnishing minors with alcohol range from fines of $500 to $2,000, and a possible jail sentence of six to 12 months.
This struck a chord with some students at the talk.
"His points about how getting in trouble with the law for underage drinking can tarnish some of your future prospects was a slightly different way of presenting the consequences than I have heard here at Bowdoin," said Luke Lamar '13. "I feel like here at Bowdoin our main focus is making sure people stay safe in the present and we don't really focus on the future consequences of doing something stupid."
Coordinator of CASA and Director of Substance Abuse Prevention for Mid Coast Hospital Melissa Fochesato explained that the impetus for Lyons' presentation stemmed from student requests.
"Several students were interested in learning more about Maine Liquor Laws and strategies that could be adopted to make parties safer," said Fochesato. She said that CASA had seen an increase in student interest in alcohol safety this year.
Fochesato explained other reasons for the talk.
"CASA's role is to respond to community needs and interest regarding underage and high-risk drinking. There seems to be an increased interest this year from students to learn more about what they can do to keep each other safe, particularly at parties," she said. Community Policing Officer Terry Goan spoke of how the BPD has also maintained a rapport with students.
"I think the relationship is as strong as it has ever been," he said. "Randy [Nichols] has always supported whatever action...we want to [take], as has Tim Foster," said Goan. "Student[s] will come and go, parties will be held, and underage drinking will take place. Our effort has always been to try and educate the students and suggest the risks behind [pre-gaming], and drinking too much and trying to decrease the chance of students going to the hospital."
The event organizers had hoped more off-campus residents would be present. The presentation came on the heels of two party-related incidents at the College; the BPD shut down Pinefest on October 30 and last weekend an incident at Crack House led to a student being charged with furnishing.
"I do wish some of the students that live in private homes in the communities had attended tonight's meeting," said Lyons.
"They tend to host a number of parties that throughout my career seem to have had more numerous complaints. I believe many of those complaints could have been curtailed had someone been a little more thoughtful as a neighbor and responsible as a host," said Lyons.