For many college students in Wisconsin, underage drinking is the thorn in their side.
Drinking tickets for those caught underage drinking can reach almost $500. This is no small cost for many students living on an already tight budget, and the ticket results in a black mark on their record that does not look pleasant.
The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee offers underage students an alternative to the municipal courts. Through the ACE Program (Alcohol and your College Experience) University students can receive help for their substance abuse problems.
ACE was established for “education, cognitive-behavioral skills, norms clarification, and motivational enhancement to individuals who are at-risk for experiencing or causing issues related to their personal alcohol or other drug use.”
The program is carried out by ACE Program coordinators who work with students by reflecting on their actions with alcoholic substances. The Program then lowers the students’ fine and then dismisses the charges or underage drinking on their record.
Disciplinary referrals for liquor violations have increased by 15%, according to the UW-Milwaukee’s Annual Security Report. As student arrests are going up the dorms, the ACE Program is as active as always.
The legal drinking age has been 21 since 1986, but it is still a major facet of Wisconsin’s culture and lifestyle regardless of age.
Students and other individuals are often referred to ACE as a suggestion by authorities such as Campus Police or University Housing because of their alcohol or substance abuse. Participants can also attend by their own choice as well.
The program has participants attend a group skills class that relates to alcohol. These seminars often include students telling their stories about what led them to attend an ACE class. After the seminar, participants then meet with an ACE Program Coordinator that will talk with them one-on-one.
Sarah Belstock is the Health Educator at the University. She works at the Norris Health Center in assisting emotionally distressed students, as well as offering information about programs related to helping students with substance abuse problems.
“We have a follow-up program evaluation,” said Belstock. “We see a decrease of repeat citations for students who complete our ACE program.”
According to the University’s Annual Security Report that was released in October, disciplinary referrals for liquor violations on campus increased by 15% between the years 2009 and 2010.
“Nothing new is going on this year with student lifestyle choices,” said Belstock. “ACE produces pretty consistent numbers.”
Police Chief Gregory Habeck works at the University Police. The City of Milwaukee Police are independent of the police who work within the University.
“At the start of each semester, the University works with the City to increase patrols around campus,” said Chief Habeck. “This has been something going on for years.”
Underage students caught by University Police are typically given an option to participate in the ACE Program. This is a program that is not in any way associated with city police, who typically do not issue the option of the ACE Program.
Students given the option of the ACE Program will see a decrease in the amount they need to pay for their fine. The student also can be dismissed of charges by turning in their ticket to the municipal courts, proving that they successfully completed the ACE Program.
Students in dorms
According to the University’s Annual Security Report, arrests for alcohol-related violations have increased by 53% in the student residents halls.
Seth Kaempfer is a Resident Assistant at Cambridge Hall, one of UW-Milwaukee’s residence halls located on North Avenue.
“As an R.A., I try to create a community through events,” said Kaempfer. “I’m also there as a resource and authoritative figure.”
R.A.’s never refer students to ACE themselves, but will interfere when alcohol is involved with their underage residents. Kaempfer said that R.A. procedures will include confiscation of the alcohol, and will only get Campus Police involved when there is a major problem.
“There are drinking problems because of the age the city,” said Kaempfer. “They think it’s fun to sneak in alcohol.”
Student dorm-life and academics often go hand-in-hand with one another. UW-Milwaukee offers resources for its faculty and staff as well.
The website sites a survey done by the University of Minnesota that looked at the correlation of academic performance and health.
The study reported that the GPA of a student will decrease as the number of days on which a student uses alcohol increases. ‘A’ students drank an average of 3.3 drinks per week, while ‘D’ students drank an average of 9.0 drinks per week.
“They get excited by sneaking in alcohol,” said Keampfer. “It creates a moment of a whole lot of different things.”