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UMass plans workshop for students who misbehave off-campus

AMHERST — University of Massachusetts students who are caught causing trouble off campus will go through a new program aimed at changing their behavior.

Sally Linowski, assistant dean of students, Wednesday told the Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce High-Risk Drinking that she is assisting in developing an education workshop for students found in violation of the student code of conduct for off-campus incidents, including being cited, arrested or identified for nuisance house and noise bylaw violations, vandalism, alcohol possession or public urination.

“We feel like this new workshop is focused on decision-making and going back into the community how not to make the same mistakes again,” Linowski said.

Linowski said the program is considered an “add-on” to the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students that many students, either on campus or off, have to go through if they have violated alcohol laws.

The workshop supplements letters sent by associate dean of students Allison Berger to the 967 students who violated the code of conduct last year. They ask students to consider their past behavior and how to engage with the community more positively in the future.

“Failing to comply with the code of student conduct and town bylaws also has some unintended consequences, including public arrest records, loss of scholarships, inability to participate in study abroad opportunities or to lease an off-campus apartment,” Berger wrote.

The university obtained addresses for all properties where Amherst police responded to noise disturbances last year and sent letters to the tenants, even though many may be new to those homes.

“Be aware that roving groups of individuals search for parties and may gather quickly at your place without invitation, causing problems for you and your neighbors. This is especially true if your property has a history of attracting large crowds,” Berger wrote.

Linowski said the idea is that this education will lead to fewer issues at those homes. “Hopefully those folks won’t have the same problems,” Linowski said.

Finally, one last letter will be sent to all students this week outlining expectations for the school year.

Efforts to reach off-campus students are coming through the expansion of the Off-Campus Student Life Center, which is based in the Student Union.

This fall there are 10 off-campus student life coordinators, doubling the number from last fall, and these coordinators will be available to work with students off campus.

UMass continues to promote the off-campus online learning module, designed to help students transition from living on campus to off-campus housing.

David Vaillancourt, associate dean of students, said 180 students took this web-based course on their own before living off campus.

Welcome letters went to all students with no on-campus residence address and door-hangers were placed at off-campus houses to inform students about preparing for weather emergencies and offering fire safety tips.

One initiative launched by the coalition and UMass is Walk This Way, which will be held from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. every Friday and Saturday through Halloween and resume in the spring.

The goal of Walk This Way is to encourage students to use Massachusetts Avenue when returning to campus from downtown instead of residential streets, including Fearing.

Linowski said UMass is hiring some students, at $9 per hour, for this work and encouraging volunteers from student groups and fraternities and sororities. They wear neon-green T-shirts.

Select Board Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe said better coordination and collaboration between UMass and the town is paying dividends in dealing with student issues. “This shows the fruits of our labors,” she said.

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