Intoxication and subsequent disciplinary action is not uncommon on college campuses. Consequences of excessive drinking range from the common write-up issued by a Campus Security Officers (CSO), to the far less frequent trip to the drunk tank at the county jail.
“A lot of times what we do is help [students] get safely back,” said Nick Yukich, UCSC CSO supervisor. “That [can] be the police taking them back to the college where they live, or when it’s not appropriate and they’re out in public, sometimes they are taken down to the drunk tank.”
UC Santa Cruz second-year Sarah George* experienced this firsthand.
“I was in shock, I woke up in a detainment cell and I was wearing orange pants,” George said.
When drugs or alcohol are involved and an individual is determined to be intoxicated to the point of being unsafe, CSOs identify the individual and call the police, Yukich said, and the police determine whether to send the individual to the drunk tank.
“The most immediate medical need comes from students who drink, and drink too much,” Yukich said. “Eighteen-year-olds who have no experience with alcohol, which is in itself a toxin and is extremely dangerous, don’t readily know, appreciate or understand it.”
Some are unaware being sent to the drunk tank is a possibility for intoxicated students at UCSC. Among them was George’s roommate James Schmidt*. Schmidt did not know why his roommate, who he had been expecting, did not return home.
“One of the CSOs told me [George] was taken to the drunk tank really late, [but] I had to go to them,” second-year Schmidt said. “I think that it would be a good idea to tell someone’s roommate if they won’t be coming back.”
Second-year student Eric Soffer said the policy could reduce the number of publicly drunk people on campus causing problems.
“I think it is an effective method, just not very fair,” Soffer said. “If you do that to someone they definitely won’t do it again, but it’s a college campus and a student shouldn’t necessarily have to deal with that. In an extreme case when someone is being drunk and belligerent it makes sense and is probably a good solution.”
George said she believes the program could be effective in some cases.
“I feel like it could be effective for people who are completely off their knocker,” George said. “[But] I think the university could do more than hand us off to the city and make it the city’s problem.”
A student taken to the drunk tank must pay to take an alcohol eduction course, part of which pays for the student’s return to campus.
“Most folks are released before dawn, the campus [provides] a taxi voucher so even if students don’t have a ready method to pay, Yellow Cab accepts the vouchers,” he said. “The college doesn’t necessarily pay for the trip, but it’s a way to ensure nobody has to walk home.”
In 30 years of being a CSO, Yukich has experienced heavily intoxicated students who very nearly didn’t survive, and some who did not.
“With some individuals it’s very possible for the part of the brain that controls involuntary respiration to go to sleep,” Yukich said. “It looks just like they’ve gone to sleep, unfortunately they just never wake up. That’s the saddest part of it.”
Despite an unpleasant experience and a possible bad night of rest, Yukich said, a trip to the drunk tank is a small price to pay for staying safe.
* Names have been changed