By Catalina Righter
Washington College may not be big, but it can feel big and bad when you’re away from home for the first time and still learning the rules of conduct. Director of Public Safety Jerry Roderick has been ushering in first-year students for years, and he is familiar with the common mistakes that can impact a student’s safety.
“It’s a new community, new environment,” he said. “It’s relatively safe, but some parts of it are not as safe.” He recommends that new students take the time to talk to upperclassmen and get to know the community to help them stay away from situations with too much risk.
A student’s first six weeks are critical to whether they will remain at Washington College, he said.
“I think the biggest issue freshmen deal with is alcohol use. Most students have already had some experience, but in this environment, it’s easy to be coached into drinking more,” he said.
Excessive drinking comes with concerns like blackouts and alcohol poisoning, according to the website of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
It can also have negative secondary effects like making the drinker more prone to accidental injury and more vulnerable to sexual assault. Roderick said, “Sexual assault occurs more often to freshmen in the first six weeks — students need to keep that in mind.”
He said the best defense against peer pressure to drink excessively is a supportive network of friends.
If someone does drink too much, the College has a medical amnesty policy that reduces or eliminates disciplinary action against the student. Students who call on behalf of another student will also be exempt from judicial action for underage drinking or from giving alcohol to an underage person.
Drinking can be especially problematic when combined with the environment of off-campus parties, which have historically drawn complaints from town residents due to noise disturbances and destruction of property. “Chestertown Police have formed a more rigid response,” Roderick said. “I would caution people if they are going to [off-campus parties].”
The other major safety concern on campus is protection of personal property. Roderick said students should be wary of leaving items like laptops and cell phones unattended.
They should also keep dormitory rooms, off-campus residences, and other living areas locked, especially considering recent events in town. “There was a rash of break-ins on commercial businesses. Police have made arrests in July,” he said.
He reminds students that Public Safety is “there to help,” if they have any concerns about their well-being on campus. He said, “Be responsible, use common sense, keep situational awareness, and hopefully you’ll find [your first six weeks] to be a good experience.”
Public Safety can be reached at 410-778-7810.
Additional reporting by Molly Igoe, news editor.