13 students issued court summonses last weekend
April 5, 2019
The first weekend back from Spring Break was a busy one for both students and the Brunswick Police Department (BPD). Thirteen students received alcohol-related court summons and one student received a warning between last Friday and Saturday nights. The unusually high number of summonses reflects an upward trend in student interaction with BPD and has caused anxiety among students.
This year, BPD was one of 25 Maine law enforcement agencies that was awarded an Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL) grant by Dirigo Safety, LLC—a private organization that provides monetary support and training to law enforcement agencies in Maine.
According to the Dirigo Safety website, the primary focus of the EUDL program is to “systematically implement best or promising practices that attain the objectives of increasing the enforcement of underage drinking laws and enhancing research-based prevention planning.”
On Tuesday, BPD announced that, in addition to the EUDL grant, they department received a grant from the Maine Centers for Disease Control to focus on the enforcement of underage drinking laws in the months of April and May.
According to BPD’s Facebook post announcing the grant, the funds will go towards educating minors on the dangers of alcohol and “looking for violations and enforcing the laws as practical.”
The post mentioned that officers looking for violations may be plainclothes police officers.
Five of the summonses from last weekend were issued at Helmreich House (Helm) on Friday night at a registered party after a wellness check was requested.
At around 11:30 p.m. on Friday, the event host (E-host) at Helm called Bowdoin Security for a routine wellness check for an intoxicated student. Upon examination, Security concluded that a medical transport was necessary.
As is standard, two BPD officers arrived at Helm with paramedics from Brunswick Rescue.
At the time of BPD’s arrival, there were five students in the house: three underage students, who were friends of the transported student, the E-host and the alcohol host (A-host). The E-host was also underage.
Although there was no alcohol on the premises at the time of BPD’s arrival, BPD turned the conversation away from the details of the transported student to College House policies.
“She asked questions like: what it means to be an E-host, what it means to be an A-host, why we had those roles, what the house was, [who was] living in the house, how we could host this event,” said Kendra Clifton ’21, the E-host at Helm on Friday.
During the conversation with BPD officers, the three friends reported that the student had consumed alcohol at an undisclosed location before arriving at Helm. All five students said that the transported student had not consumed alcohol at Helm.
Clifton noted that it is not against College House policy to host events where both alcohol and minors are present, as long as the minors are not served.
After speaking with the officer, all five students present received a summons. Clifton received a criminal charge for furnishing a location for minors to consume alcohol. Simon Chow ’19, the A-host, received a criminal charge for furnishing alcohol to minors. The three additional students received civil charges for possession of alcohol by a minor.
“[The officer] decided that, because there was an event with alcohol served and intoxicated minors were present, I had furnished the place and [Chow] had furnished the alcohol,” said Clifton.
In the past, BPD has mostly issued summonses to students in response to noise complaints or visible violations of the law, such as students carrying open containers of alcohol. Neither happened during Friday’s party.
“[BPD] wasn’t there to investigate the party—[they were] there for the safety of a student, so there was really no need for this to happen,” said Clifton.
In the official statement from the College, Randy Nichols, director of safety and security, wrote:
“The College has been in communication with the police department in order to clarify what took place during this incident, and we won’t be commenting further until the police investigation has concluded. We are grateful to the student who called for a wellness check, and we continue to urge all students to contact security when they are concerned about the health and well-being of another student.”
The eight other summonses received by Bowdoin students last weekend were given late Saturday night. Six students were cited for alcohol law violations at Carlisle Apartments, known colloquially as Lighthouse. The police investigated the off-campus location after a noise complaint was reported.
In unrelated cases on Saturday, two minor students received summonses for carrying an open container. One student was cited on Harpswell Road near Chamberlain Street and the other was cited on Belmont Street.
Students of all class years have noticed the increase in interaction with BPD at both on- and off-campus events.
“In my four years here, I have noticed that BPD has been cracking down more on … College House parties,” said Chow. “With [the] Quinby House and Mac House Cold War [Party] that happened [last year] and then this past weekend, Helm House, I think that there has been an increase in surveillance and also cracking down.”
Chow raised concerns about whether Bowdoin students could continue to use the E- and A-host system to host events in light of these developments.
“I think there needs to be a reevaluation of College policies and also responsibility of where that lies,” he said.
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So unnecessary and unfortunate that these students are being criminally charged for following a policy long endorsed by Bowdoin as how the college house drinking scene works. Also extremely disappointing that the BPD thinks it’s a good public policy decision to punish responsible friends who stayed with their friend who needed the wellness check and transport. This just encourages young people, who are going to drink anyway, to do it in less safe forums and to think twice about doing the right thing and calling for a wellness check for a friend if necessary.
As unfortunate as the situation is, the college’s policy worked just as designed —pass all the responsibility onto the students while simultaneously insisting on controlling every aspect of the party. Somehow the administration needs a year long working to committee to figure out why students decide to move social events off campus. If the administration cares about students wellbeing, and not just avoiding legal consequences, they should take a long hard look at their current policies.
The College pushed the A-Host and E-Hosting programs so heavily during college house orientation, and students are all but promised that they will not get in trouble for following these policies. This is unfair to all the students involved. BPD needs to understand that they’re never going to eradicate underage drinking, they’re just pushing students towards less safe drinking spaces and habits. Dick move, BPD.
Why are these students being punished for doing the responsible and right thing for calling for help? This only makes students distrust Bowdoin and the Brunswick Police. Why is the police in the college’s business? It seems they are targeting Bowdoin students rather than focusing on protecting the community. These kids are not criminals. As a parent, I am quite disturbed by the treatment of these students.
Obviously, Brunswick has a problem with Bowdoin and is taking it out on students. Apparently, Brunswick’s police department is underfunded. A grant for cracking down on underage drinking in a college town is like shooting fish in a barrel. Bowdoin allows it’s students to be those fish. Will Bowdoin step up and defend them? Is Bowdoin, a not-for-profit that takes land off the tax rolls, adequately supporting Brunswick?
Bowdoin students and their parents are a positive economic force, yet Brunswick treats students like a barely-tolerable necessary evil, and Bowdoin stands by and does nothing. Wouldn’t it be something if Bowdoin students and their families came together and boycotted businesses in Brunswick. Use hotels in Freeport. Buy groceries in Bath.
Maine’s average age is the oldest in the country. Businesses can’t find workers. The state frets over how to attract and retain young adults, but wise Brunswick bucks that trend. Who would blame Brunswick’s 18 year-olds for attending college out-of-state and never returning? Will Bowdoin students remain past graduation? For that matter, why attend Bowdoin at all? There are many fine colleges in towns that aren’t out to get students. As a parent, I’d recommend one of those.
Very well reported piece – and one that seems ripe for continued coverage (a la the superb work y’all have done re: wages).
It is disturbing to think how many alternatives were ignored or discarded in favor of this Trojan-horse-esque raid. What’s the point of Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws? One would hope it would be improving the health and well-being of “underage” people. Yet this approach disincentivizes wellness checks, disrupts the critical BPD-Bowdoin Security relationship, and sows distrust of various authorities – the administration included.
I wonder if Bowdoin will pay for its lawyer to defend the students? Probably not. Then again, I’m sure Bowdoin knows how to grease the wheels of justice. Will be interesting to see if the DA will reduce or even drop the charges.
There needs to be immunity for students who make a humanitarian call for help. The actions of the BPD, while certainly well intentioned, will backfire and force underage drinking underground. The students who called for help and stuck around to ensure help would arrive did the right thing. What do they get in return? Criminal summonses. In California, a 19 year old student at UC Irvine died in his bed of alcohol poisoning when no one called for help. (https://lat.ms/2UxfX1P) Is this what we want to happen at Bowdoin?
Interesting how these things have a way of coming back around. A similar grant-funded uptick in enforcement by BPD happened during my senior spring almost ten years ago. Back then I recall that the on-campus incidents mostly involved housing around the periphery of campus where noise complaints are more common. I also remember that a few students with fake IDs got heavy-duty identity fraud charges (which yes, a fake ID absolutely fits the definition of – don’t do it!).
Until our laws are more in touch with reality, enforcement will always be a difficult subject, but the incident at Helmrich sends the wrong message. Polar Bears, please stay safe and keep looking out for one another.
Thank you for the support and for bringing up valid points regarding this issue. I can only hope for the best and that the administration works towards a better policy regarding the A and E host. Hopefully, no more Bowdoin students will have to go through the same thing and we can encourage the safe consumption of alcohol (for those who are 21+, of course). Let’s continue to look out for each other.