UTPD responds to freshman alcohol consumption during orientation sessions

Catherine Marfin

Despite conduct expectations set by the Dean of Students, it is not uncommon for freshmen attending New Student Orientation to attend fraternity parties or consume alcohol when the day’s activities are through.

This is according to officer William Pieper, a member of the UT-Austin Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit.

“We have officers out on patrol every night to look for a litany of suspicious activities, including alcohol consumption [or possession] by minors,” Pieper said. “Every summer during orientation sessions, we have to deal with these situations.”

Since the first orientation session on June 6, UTPD has recorded over four incidents of alcohol possession or consumption by incoming freshmen in the Campus Watch, a daily report of recent crimes in the campus area that UTPD sends to subscribers via email of recent crimes in the campus area. Two of these incidents resulted in UTPD calling Austin-Travis County EMS for treatment of alcohol poisoning, and one resulted in an arrest.

While there may have been other incidents of public intoxication involving prospective students, Pieper said the Campus Watch has only featured a handful, since the report only includes a limited number of crimes selected by UTPD from the previous day.

Before attending orientation, prospective students are required to watch a series of videos outlining conduct expectations during their session. Students must agree to attend all mandatory activities, remain on campus at all times, return to their residence hall by 1:30 a.m. and perhaps the rule most frequently broken — refrain from drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs.           

“I don’t drink, but I know a lot of people do go out and party, even during this week,” communication studies freshman Elizabeth Miget said. “My roommate actually went out the very first night.”

According to the New Student Services website, students who violate these rules will not be able to register for classes and will be required to meet with an orientation staff member or Soncia Reagins-Lilly, the Dean of Students, for further discussion of the issue. 

“If you want to get involved with that kind of thing, it’s really on you to be smart about it,” computer science freshman London Bolsius said. “It should be your responsibility to inform yourself of the dangers [and consequences] that go along with that.”

When UTPD investigates these incidents on campus, officers will typically return the student to their residence or put them in the custody of a sober friend or adult. If the individual is causing a public disturbance, officers will issue a citation, or a “ticket,” which requires the student to pay a small fine — but stays on the student’s criminal record.

However, when UTPD is involved in alcohol incidents, officers prioritize student safety over making arrests or issuing citations.

“When we come across people who need medical attention, they clearly haven’t been informed of the dangers of what they’re doing,” Pieper said. “But we try not to be too ‘preachy.’ Our job is to enforce the laws … and our primary concern is student safety.”