Party rep decreases, alumni say
Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 05:05
Chris Barton, who graduated from the university in 1992, said he remembers that while he attended the university, there was talk of the school’s reputation taking a turn for the worse.
“There was a lot of news coverage around that time about Delaware being a party school,” Barton said. “I was always entertained by it, because all we ever did was drink beer.”
Barton, 42, of Landenberg, Pa., is among numerous university alumni who believe the school’s image has changed significantly since the 1990s by becoming less of a party school and one that is more focused on academics.
Kathryn Goldman, the director of the Office of Student Conduct, said school officials increased enforcement against potentially unsafe behavior in the ‘90s after the Harvard University School of Public Health and the Robin Wood Johnson foundation identified the university as a school with “serious binge drinking problems.”
To address the issue, Goldman said school officials enacted numerous policy changes, such as increased university police enforcement during David Roselle’s term as the college’s president, which began in 1990.
“A lot of community and university coalitions came together for a multi-pronged approach to address binge drinking,” she said.
Goldman said during recent years, university police have changed the way they enforce alcohol-related offenses, by targeting potentially dangerous behavior and increasing their presence at events like tailgates before football games.
“They are particularly looking for students that might be so intoxicated they are at risk,” Goldman said.
Junior Jill Kemenosh said when she decided to apply to the university, she heard that the school was ranked as one of the top 20 party schools in the nation. She said she recently heard university officials are working to change the school’s negative reputation.
“Honestly, when I came here I heard it was a party school,” Kemenosh said. “But since I was a freshman I noticed it calmed down a lot. I don’t know if they have changed the reputation academically, but it has changed as a party school.”
Barton said since the late 1990s and early 2000s, the university has been trying to crack down on underage drinking on campus.
“I think the quality of education and the perception of the quality of the education that a student receives at UD has been at the forefront,” he said. “President Roselle really started changing the perception of UD.”
University spokeswoman Meredith Chapman said the university has seen an increase of students with higher credentials, which partially reflects the school’s current image.
“It is becoming more competitive to earn a place in our freshman class, and this, combined with the impact our faculty and staff are making in terms of their research, programs and services, is all part of strengthening the brand and reputation of UD as a top research university,” she said.
Chapman said a letter mailed to university students’ parents last month that encouraged students to speak to their children about unsafe consumption of alcohol was meant to publicly highlight the issue.
“We believe that students, their parents, their friends and the University all have an important role in the health and well-being of UD students,” she said.
Senior Steve Rollino said he has noticed more police enforcement on campus during the last four years, especially at tailgates and day-drinking events, which contradicts an impression he gleaned from accounts by other alumni, some of which were published in a book called “Glory Days at Delaware.” The book contains stories and anecdotes from graduates who attended the university between 1987 and 2007, some of whom recall experiences at parties and bars.
“In the ‘90s this school used to be a free-for-all, but now it is definitely more policed,” Rollino said.
Barton said when he was a student, the university began trying to reduce student drinking by banning kegs on campus and at football games. As a former president of the fraternity Kappa Delta Rho, he said Greeks used to tailgate in a parking lot separate from the rest of the student body during Homecoming until 1991.
“There was a very integrated focused approach on managing campus party life, particularly with the Greeks,” he said. “The one thing that is absolutely obvious is that [now] there aren’t as many fraternity and sorority houses on campus. It’s just a very different landscape.”
Barton said he does not remember police appearing at tailgates, including those held during Homecoming celebrations. He said drinking before football games was less structured than it is now.
Senior Mike Stumpf said when he was a freshman, the university had a “three-strikes and you’re out” suspension policy. Although the system no longer exists, he said he felt it enforced strict consequences for underage drinking.
“Once you got a strike, you didn’t want to be at UD. Going out on the weekends is an intrinsic part of the college experience,” Stumpf said. “When I was out with friends, I spent half the time having fun and half the time looking over my shoulder.”
Goldman said the three-strike system, implemented in 1998 to deter behavior deemed inappropriate by school officials, was eliminated in 2009 because officials determined that it became ineffective. She said students tried to avoid punishment but were not discouraged from pursuing potentially unsafe behavior.
She said the system sometimes imposed heavy punishments toward students for behavior that was not serious enough to require removal from campus. The policy also allowed some repeat offenders to remain part of the school’s community.
“Some students did something so bad they needed to leave campus from a single incident,” Goldman said. “Other incidents were so minor in violations that students stayed on campus for more than three strikes.”