UF looks beyond campus for DUI cases
Published: Saturday, January 28, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 27, 2006 at 11:25 p.m.
They may try to hide it from Mom and Dad, but University of Florida students caught driving drunk in Alachua County won't be able to hide it from UF administrators.
This month, UF began regularly monitoring off-campus DUI convictions. Students convicted of DUI in the county won't just face criminal courts, they'll go before UF's Office of Student Judicial Affairs, where they could face suspension or expulsion.
Student Judicial Affairs already hears between 30 and 40 on-campus DUI cases each year. But that number will likely go up now that UF is looking beyond its borders, said Eugene Zdziarski, UF's dean of students.
First-time offenders in the system are typically suspended from school for a year, Zdziarski said. Repeat offenders, however, can face expulsion, he said.
Addressing the Community Alcohol Coalition Friday, UF President Bernie Machen stressed the importance of the expanded monitoring.
"This is a significant departure from what has been," he said.
Students who go before Judicial Affairs can either have their cases heard by an administrator or go before the Student Conduct Committee, a group of faculty, staff and students.
Over the past year, the coalition has worked to spur a community-wide effort aimed at addressing student binge drinking. Machen has stressed the role bar owners will need to play in this effort, and he's been critical of some bars that he says encourage excessive boozing through wild specials and often sexist advertising.
Frank Villante, manager of Swamp Restaurant, came forward with a proposal Friday that Machen described as a positive step forward. Villante is working to get local bars and restaurants to join a new group called the Gainesville Responsible Hospitality Partnership. Participating vendors would have to sign a "covenant," agreeing to comply with alcohol regulations. Business owners would pledge to comply with underage drinking laws, and agree to create an atmosphere that "facilitates positive and respectful social interaction." In turn, businesses would encourage student organizations at UF and Santa Fe Community College to only patronize establishments that sign the covenant.
Machen complimented the plan, but said it lacks teeth in its present form. There is no formal mechanism in place yet that would monitor establishments for compliance or revoke membership for violators.
Villante agreed that procedures for monitoring and sanctions need to be developed.
"It was not as far as I would like them to go," Machen said after the meeting.
The city of Gainesville is making its own efforts through the Legislature that would crack down on businesses that violate alcohol restrictions. In its recommendations to the Legislature this session, the city has requested the authority to regulate the promotion, pricing and marketing of drink specials at establishments that incur two or more violations within a six-month period. This would give the city the power to discontinue "all-you-can-drink" style specials at bars with repeat offenses.
The city has some authorities at its disposal that don't require legislative approval, said Marion J. Radson, City attorney.
"The city has a silver bullet that could kill all alcoholic beverage establishments," Radson said.
The so-called "silver bullet" would be mandating that bars close down at midnight instead of 2 a.m. At present, Radson said the city hasn't given serious consideration to shutting bars down early. He didn't rule out the possibility, though.
"If an unfortunate occurrence happened," he said, "who knows."
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