The party, the eight and the fire that followed

    A few weeks before school started, some of the resident advisers living on campus threw a party in an Earl Warren College apartment for a resident adviser who had just turned 21. Alcohol was served at this party. At this point, nothing is wrong with this situation. However, add to this scenario the fact that some of the RAs in attendance were underage, and you have an administrative response that has students rallying in support of the RAs, the A.S. Council passing a resolution saying student workers need more rights, and others — like me — wondering just what the big deal is.

    Some feel that the RAs should not have been fired, that this was too drastic a penalty for this small crime. Most of the RAs in question disagree with this, however, feeling that the punishment was merited, but the way it was carried out was unreasonable and unfair.

    According to those who know the RAs and the situation, the party was originally intended to be only for RAs 21 years old and up. Since this was during RA training, all of the Warren RAs and Warren college TV interns were living in the same area. Somehow, some of the underage RAs and an underage intern ended up at this party. Whether they were invited or crashed the party is unclear and irrelevant.

    California law is written very specifically. California state law, business and professions code 25658 states that anyone who “”sells, furnishes, gives or causes to be sold, furnished or given away”” any alcohol to a person under 21 is guilty of a misdemeanor. Strangely enough, unless this is in a public place (which an apartment is not), the minor in question who possesses or consumes said alcohol is not guilty of a state crime. Both of these actions are against university policy, but only one is a legal crime.

    If one of the underage RAs so much as picked up a wine cooler, the people who threw the party would have been immediately guilty of a misdemeanor. This law applies regardless of the age of the provider of alcohol. The rest of the students who were at the party and retained their jobs did violate university policy, but broke no laws. So although they received less punishment, they committed fewer violations (according to state law) — and the administration cannot afford to lose all of the RAs involved. Furthermore, the RAs who were fired were returning RAs, and the university expects them to be better role models for both the residents they watch over and their less-experienced colleagues.

    Warren college administrators cannot allow this sort of incident to happen on the UCSD campus, and the fact that those involved were the very workers who are charged with preventing such incidents only makes the situation more serious. The administrators screened the applicants for these positions in order to prevent situations like this, and they are unable to tolerate uncorrected failures of this system.

    If the residents with these RAs were aware that this had happened and the university had done nothing in response, why should they feel obligated to follow university policy regarding alcohol? There would be more alcohol on campus, more being served to minors, and more laws and university policies being broken. The university could get in serious trouble, be sued, fined (which would lead to increased tuition), or worse. The news magazines already tell us that colleges have terrible drinking problems, and that would only cause the situation to escalate.

    Other aspects of the situation are stickier. The RAs were kicked out of their housing on Oct. 8 and were given until Oct. 13 to get out. This might seem unreasonable or at the very least unkind, but it was not unfair. To begin with, an RA’s housing and food is paid for as part of the position, which is one of the draws to the job. Therefore, when the RAs were no longer working at UCSD, they were not receiving the benefits of the job, which includes housing.

    Also, the housing contract signed by every resident on campus, including all RAs, states that failure to comply with university policy can lead to termination of the housing contract. In short, these RAs gave the school permission to kick them out when they agreed to the terms of their employment.

    If the RAs were unclear about the expectations of their job, or unaware of the possible consequences of failing to meet those job expectations, then the circumstances would be different, and leniency from the deans would be understandable. But this was clearly not the case.

    Furthermore, the procedure taken to investigate the actions of the RAs was entirely appropriate. Being an RA means setting an example, guiding one’s charges. The administration had to respond seriously to a serious breach of contract. This was not a violation of student rights — it was the unfortunate outcome for an unfortunately stupid decision.

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