As the first weekend of fall semester approaches, students may be wondering where to find the biggest and best parties at St. Thomas.
I’m not going to discourage students from spending their weekend nights at house parties or the local bars. I will, however, offer a strong caution to those that do: St. Thomas and its surrounding area have little tolerance for underage drinking and boisterous house parties.
St. Thomas may not be a “party school” like Arizona State or the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but this doesn’t stop students from coming to campus expecting to party their weekends away.
Parties are frequently busted in the neighborhood surrounding St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus. St. Paul Police Department officers have been known to block all the exits at house parties, issuing underage drinking citations to all minors inside.
While the status of the Zero Adult Providers program is currently in flux, the program will still probably be in effect this fall. And if you aren’t familiar with ZAP, then you likely will be soon.
ZAP is a program aiming to aggressively prevent underage drinking at parties, issuing citations at parties with large numbers of minors and severely punishing alcohol providers. Originally designed by the City of St. Paul, the program has since been implemented by other law enforcement and health agencies in the area, such as Chisago County and the Minnesota Institute of Public Health.
ZAP is also specifically targeting parties in the area.
It may seem like the goal of ZAP is to make St. Thomas partygoers’ lives miserable, and it certainly isn’t a very popular program among students who have been ticketed or arrested. But whether you like it or not, this is the reality we face while attending a Catholic university in a residential area.
Simply being aware of this is half the battle, but for those seeking further guidance, here’s my advice as we head into the semester’s first weekend:
Avoid crowded and/or loud house parties if you’re underage:
While this may seem counter-logical to those who enjoy parties like in the movie Animal House, it’s sound advice if you wish to avoid a court appearance, community service and hefty fine. Remember that our campus is in a residential area and homeowners will have no qualms in calling the police. Noise complaints are usually the explanation for the red and blue flashing lights in the window. Avoid any house party that you can hear before you see it.
If you’re drinking in the dorms, keep it down!
As long as you keep the noise to an absolute minimum, drinking in the dorms is manageable (although risky). If you’ve got 15 people crammed in your Brady Hall dorm, chances are that a Public Safety officer or an RA will hear you. Keeping alcohol hidden is a good precaution to take. However, Public Safety will search your room if they deem it necessary. Public Safety will not hesitate to issue citations, and multiple violations can put your academic standing in jeopardy.
Don’t provide alcohol to minors:
The St. Paul police have a zero-tolerance policy for adult providers of alcohol. You can be arrested for this, and it is a felony offense for an adult who provides alcohol to an underage person who sustains an alcohol-related serious injury or dies. If you’re hosting a party where there is underage drinking, you can be charged with providing alcohol to minors.
Don’t leave a party alone:
It’s not safe. You put yourself at risk when you walk alone and late at night, especially in the area surrounding our school. Last spring, a St. Thomas student who fell into the Mississippi River was found almost a month after he left a house party alone. Rest in peace, Dan Zamlen. When you travel in groups, you avoid risks and are much more prepared if something unfortunate happens.
The overarching themes here are: a) be safe and b) if you’re doing something illegal, be discreet.
Above all, remember that alcohol hampers good decision-making. Plan ahead, and make sure you heed my earlier advice.
Here’s to an enjoyable and safe weekend for all members of the St. Thomas community. Stay out of trouble, fellow students.
Brent Fischer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org