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Studying in the US: Alcohol on Campus

Policies differ from college to college in the U.S. Part 28 of our Foreign Student Series. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Most American colleges and universities take a spring break. Students might go home to their families -- or spend a week partying on a warm beach with no parents around. That is the popular image, at least.

In the United States, the legal age to drink alcohol is twenty-one -- one of the highest in the world. Americans debate whether it should be lowered, or whether young drinkers would only drink more. In parts of Europe, the legal drinking age for beer, and sometimes hard liquor, is sixteen. Yet France may raise the age limit for beer and wine sales to eighteen, the same as for hard liquor there.

Rules on alcohol differ from college to college in the United States. Many schools require all first-year students to take an alcohol prevention and education program, often given online. Some have a "zero tolerance" policy where alcohol is banned from all buildings. Parents are informed of violations and students may be suspended.

At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, permission is needed to serve alcohol at any event on campus. But alcohol is banned in first-year dorms -- where most students are under twenty-one anyway.

Susan Davis, a university lawyer, says campus police and local police report underage drinking violations to administrators. The university judicial committee decides punishment on a case by case basis. For example, the committee might suspend or expel a student. It might require an alcohol education program. Or it might just give a warning.

Jon Zug is a prosecutor in Albemarle County, where the university is located. He says international students would face the same punishment as American citizens for underage drinking in Virginia. That includes a fine of five hundred dollars or fifty hours of community service. But first offenders might be given a chance to complete an alcohol education program instead.

Schools have to report legal violations by international students to the Department of Homeland Security. International adviser Richard Tanson at the University of Virginia says even minor violations stay on a student's permanent immigration record. He says international students should know that this can affect them in the future if they try to re-enter the United States.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. Earlier reports in our Foreign Student Series can be found at I'm Steve Ember.