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Police-student relations is group’s focus

A new student group on campus is working to address the damaged relationship between students and campus police officers because of problems related to underage drinking.

Members of Raising Issues and Taking Action hope to launch an open discussion within the Ohio State community about the issue.

The organization has created a proposal with roughly 350 student signatures of support. As a general premise, the organization believes that the drinking age should be lowered. However, the focus of the group’s arguments center on the broken trust between police officers and college students age 18 to 20.

The proposal points to five main consequences of the current minimum drinking age: a negative relationship between students and police officers, a higher rate of binge drinking, a higher rate of taking dangerous roads and alleys when inebriated to avoid contact with police officers, a distraction for police officers away from more serious crimes, and students’ lack of reliance on police officers in times of emergency.

While the student members recognize that lowering the drinking age on a national level is an unrealistic goal, they are working to improve the disjointed relationship between students and law enforcement. Members are most concerned that college students avoid calling the police because they fear getting in trouble.

According to the proposal, the group “believes the university should push for fairer treatment of students, focusing more on those who are actually causing danger to others rather than students who are simply under the age of 21.”

Raising Issues and Taking Action was founded in Spring Quarter 2009 by Ruthie Lee, a third-year in marketing. After writing an essay for a comparative studies course, Lee became infuriated by the way youth and law enforcement interact regarding the drinking age.

The group was originally comprised of 20 students, but after the Student Involvement Fair in September, roughly 120 students signed up for the Raising Issues and Taking Action e-mail list. Although the organization is still in its beginning stages, the executive board is working to plan an open forum with a campus police officer to discuss rights and debate personal opinions.

Members have been in communication with Javaune Adams-Gaston, vice president for Student Life.

“We definitely want college student input from both sides [of the argument],” Lee said. “We want to make sure this group is respectable, staying within university policy, but we also want to make a difference.

“We need to bring this issue up to more influential individuals,” Lee said.

The federally funded program, Stop Teenage Opportunity To Purchase (S.T.O.P), has led to an increase in undercover police on campus. Members of Raising Issues and Taking Action believe such programs are not solving the underlying problem of underage drinking. The police force is focusing arrests based on the age of an individual instead of the individual’s actions.

Students who want to get involved, express their opinions or become active in open discussion of the issues are encouraged to e-mail the organization at raisingissuestakingaction@gmail.com. 

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