A little alcohol-testing strip could cause some North Idaho College students a lot of problems this academic year – or it could clear them of all wrongdoing.
College administrators approved a new policy for students living in the residence hall, mandating that they submit to an immediate alcohol test, if they are suspected of drinking in the dormitory.
Two residence hall employees are authorized to give the tests, if students appear to be drunk or are behaving in an unusual or disruptive way that makes the employees suspect the students have been drinking.
The alcohol-testing strips can either be placed in a person’s mouth or in a drink to test for the presence of alcohol.
“It can verify if a person has been drinking,” said Residence Life Manager Paula Czirr, who first proposed the new policy.
Czirr had a positive experience with the strips at her previous job working at North Central Missouri College.
She’s seen incidents at NIC where students have been fighting and smelled of alcohol, but denied drinking.
“We knew they had been drinking but we couldn’t prove it,” she said.
The strips will change that, Czirr said.
A box of 25 strips costs about $47.
So far no NIC students have been tested using the strips.
All students were required to sign a form acknowledging and agreeing to the alcohol-testing policy.
Reina Lopez is in her second year living at the hall. She said she has mixed feelings about the policy.
“I think it depends on your perspective. Some people think it’s an invasion of privacy. Others think it keeps us safe,” she said.
Resident Kristen Sumers said she believes the policy is reasonable.
“It’s only for people if you’re causing trouble,” Sumers said. “The people who are going to get in trouble are those who are totally out of control.”
Alcohol is prohibited in NIC’s residence hall even if the students are of legal drinking age.
Czirr said a first violation will put a resident on probation. A second offense means eviction from campus housing.
Still, administrators say they aren’t going to be randomly testing students, and that someone who quietly has a beer in his or her room isn’t the target of the new policy.
NIC Vice President of Student Services Eric Murray said he hopes the prospect of being subject to the test strips will act as a deterrent to students thinking about drinking.
“Students know they can’t get away with lying anymore,” Murray said.
He added that he believes the policy is reasonable.
“It’s very clear these tests will only be for in-house disciplinary use. They won’t be sent to the police,” Murray said. “When you live on campus, you agree to the policies.”