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Alcohol abuse and illegal alcohol use, on or off University premises, negatively impact the University community and places students at personal and academic risk. While responding to misconduct, the University strives to provide a healthy and safe experience for students. University rules and procedures regarding student alcohol violations are specifically established to provide: (a) therapeutic or medical support interventions for students, (b) community expectations for student conduct behaviors, and (c) an orderly and safe environment for community members.

Off-Campus Alcohol Consumption

The Off-Campus Conduct Policy allows alcohol-related activities that occur off campus to come under the jurisdiction of the Office of Student Conduct. Use, possession, service, or consumption of alcoholic beverages off the premises of the University campus may all be considered violations of the Student Code of Conduct. Additionally, the following behaviors constitute Code violations:

  1. Prohibited underage possession or use: Student is under 21
  2. Excessive consumption of alcohol: When a student is under the influence of alcohol to a degree that there is a risk to the health and/or safety of self or others (e.g., unconscious, loss of control, high Blood Alcohol Concentration, needs medical attention, and/or results in a citation or detention)
  3. Furnishing alcohol to minors: A Code of Conduct violation occurs when a student serves alcohol to or purchases alcohol for those under the age of 21
  4. Driving under the influence: When a student is found to be operating a motor vehicle while legally intoxicated

Additionally, alcoholic beverages may not be served to individuals under the age of 21 at University-sponsored functions. A University-sponsored function is any event at any location that is sponsored by an officer, employee, or agent of the University in their capacity as a representative of the University. This category does not include functions organized by students or registered student organizations.

Note: Although beverage alcohol is permitted in the area adjacent to the football stadium, kegs are prohibited.

On-Campus Alcohol Consumption

Students must comply with the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and University policies and rules regarding the use, possession, or distribution of alcoholic beverages. Violation of the following regulations constitutes misconduct and may result in conduct charges and sanctions, up to and including separation from the University:

  1. The purchase, consumption, possession, or transportation, or the attempt to purchase, consume, possess, or transport, any beverage containing alcohol by persons under 21 years of age, anywhere on the premises of the University, specifically including their rooms in University residential units, is prohibited.
  2. The possession or use of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in all Penn State on-campus undergraduate residence hall buildings, including Nittany Apartments and Eastview Terrace, regardless of the age of the individual.
  3. It is against residence hall policy for there to be any tailgating activities in the residential quad areas or residence hall parking lots where alcoholic beverages are being served on any football game/event weekend including all home football games, Football Eve, Fourth Fest, and the Spring Blue and White Weekend. Students tailgating with alcoholic beverages in these defined areas will be confronted and will likely be charged with “open containers in an unauthorized area.”
  4. The selling, furnishing, or giving of any beverage containing alcohol to any person under 21 years of age is prohibited.
  5. The purchase, consumption, possession, or transportation of beverages containing alcohol in open containers is prohibited except by: (a) individuals who are 21 years of age or older, at facilities licensed by the state; (b) adult graduate students and graduate-registered student organizations may serve beverages containing alcohol to adults in facilities owned by the University which are available for such use if, but only if, no monetary charge is made for admission to the function and the function is not open to the public. Adult graduate students and graduate-registered student organizations that serve alcoholic beverages in University facilities must adopt procedures to prevent the service of alcoholic beverages to minors; and (c) by individuals who are 21 years of age or older on University-owned or controlled property when the sponsor has acquired permission under Administrative Policy AD-18.
  6. The purchase, service, use, or possession of alcoholic beverages by undergraduate-registered student organizations at any function that occurs on the premises of the University is prohibited.
  7. The use of University student activity funds by undergraduate registered student organizations for the purchase of alcoholic beverages is prohibited, whether such beverages are to be possessed or consumed on or off University premises.
Mandatory Alcohol Educational Program: BASICS

All students found responsible for behavior on or off campus involving Prohibited Underage Possession or Use of Alcoholic Beverages, Excessive Consumption of Alcohol, or Driving Under the Influence will be required to complete a University alcohol education/intervention program. At University Park, the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS) program is administered by Health Promotion & Wellness and constitutes the mandatory sanction for first-time alcohol violations in these categories. Students transported to Mount Nittany Medical Center because of alcohol consumption, whether or not they face a conduct process, are also mandated to complete BASICS. BASICS is a non-adversarial intervention that focuses on harm-reduction. Students mandated to BASICS are responsible for the $250 fee for the program. 

Parental Notification Policy as it Relates to Alcohol/Drugs

Please note that this section describes parental notification only as it pertains to alcohol and drug violations. Parental notification is also practiced for other violations. Parental notification occurs when the student accepts responsibility, or is found responsible, for any code violations in the Alcohol/Drugs category of the Student Code of Conduct. A student is exempted from parental notification if they:

  • are or will be 24 years old during the academic year
  • are enrolled in a graduate or professional program
  • are married
  • have a child or other dependent who receives more than half of his or her support from the student
  • are an orphan or ward of the court
  • are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
  • are an international student
Turning 21: What now?

Although students who are over 21 years of age can legally consume and possess alcohol in most circumstances, they still have a responsibility to concern themselves with the well-being and safety of the community and to uphold the values of Penn State. Students over 21, like all students, are obligated to abide by the Student Code of Conduct, as well as state and federal laws, and are held accountable for violations that occur regarding the use of alcohol. The most common alcohol violations for students over the age of 21 include:

  • Excessive Consumption of Alcohol: Excessive consumption of alcohol means the student’s consumption of alcohol has risen to a level that creates a community concern or that endangers the health and safety of the student and of others. Excessive consumption can be indicated by a high blood alcohol concentration, behavior like staggering or vomiting, disorderly behaviors, transport to the hospital, and other similar behaviors.
  • Supplying to minors: Supplying alcohol to minors is a serious legal offense involving fines in the thousands of dollars. When a student furnishes alcohol to persons under 21, they may be held accountable for any consequences of that consumption, even when the minor person is no longer present.
  • Driving under the influence: The maximum legal blood alcohol concentration when driving is 0.08% for persons over 21 years of age, but students may be charged with DUI below this level if signs of impairment are present. Depending on the weight of the student, a BAC of 0.08% may be reached with as few as 1.5 drinks.
Responsible Action Protocol

Penn State established a Responsible Action Protocol in response to the University Park Undergraduate Association's campaign for a medical amnesty policy. Effective January 2018, the Responsible Action Protocol was updated and now reflects the following:

A student who acts responsibly by notifying the appropriate authorities (e.g. calling 911, alerting a resident assistant, contacting police) AND meets one or more of the following criteria typically will not face University conduct action for their own use or possession of alcohol or drugs. However, the student will be required to attend an approved alcohol or drug education program, such as BASICS or the Marijuana Intervention Program (MIP); the fee will be waived. When the student's behavior involves other Code of Conduct violations (e.g., vandalism, assault, furnishing to minors) the additional behavior may be subject to conduct action. If a student exhibits a pattern of problematic behavior with alcohol or drugs, that student may be subject to formal conduct action.

The criteria which invoke the Protocol are:

  • Students seeking medical assistance for themselves when experiencing an alcohol or drug overdose or related problems.
  • A student seeks medical assistance for a peer suffering from an alcohol or drug overdose or related problems and remains with the peer until appropriate authorities arrive.
  • A student suffering from an alcohol or drug overdose or related problems, for whom another student seeks assistance, and where that individual believes they are the first caller, provides their name and remains with the peer until appropriate authorities arrive, will also not be subject to conduct action for alcohol violations.