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Letter to Education Secretary Spelling-July 2006
July 5, 2006
Secretary Margaret Spellings
Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202
Dear Secretary Spellings:
In a letter dated December 8, 2005, information was provided to the Department which identified serious noncompliance with USC Section 1011h, Drug Free Schools and Campuses Act, which address underage and excessive drinking at institutions of higher education. Although data supplied with that letter demonstrated serious noncompliance with the statute and such noncompliance was the direct cause of three deaths, no response has yet been received from your department.
Since sending the previous correspondence, further documents have been obtained which confirms that Paul Smith’s College complied with the policy making and reporting aspects of USC Section 1011h, but fell well short of implementing those policies in practice. A copy of Paul Smith’s College’s biennial filing covering 2004 & 2005 was obtained. A review of the filing found many discrepancies between the Department of Education’s filing and the overall attitudes regarding drinking on campus as reflected in the police report statements obtained in connection with the investigation of one of the accidents. Additionally, statements by the President of Paul Smith’s College, as reported in the PressRepublican (February 3, 2006-copy attached), reflect and confirm the lax enforcement so compellingly illustrated in the police report.
Since the Paul Smith’s College filing with the Department of Education is over 300 pages and the Department has received the filing previously from the college, that document is not enclosed with this letter. However, a listing of the prime discrepancies and the related pages are enclosed.
The latest filing by Paul Smith’s College was for the biennial period ending the Spring of 2005. This was months after the second of the two accidents resulting in the three deaths. As indicated in the PressRepublican article, the College initiated necessary steps to reduce the risks of campus drinking in the months after the accidents. The steps taken may well lead Paul Smith’s College towards compliance with the intent of the law for that short period. However, the report does cover the two-year period, and nothing in the report provides light on the campus atmosphere up to the time of the accidents.
Secretary Margaret Spellings
July 5, 2006
A comparison of the biennial review filed by Paul Smith’s College for 2002 and 2003 with the 2004 and 2005 review would likely show them to be very similar and reflect the same level of awareness and compliance with Drug Free Schools and Campuses Act . However, the previously mentioned police report demonstrates a much different attitude and approach towards underage and excessive drinking both that evening and, based on certain statements by students, for a significant period prior to that evening. Therefore, the record shows that Paul Smith’s College was much more interested in paper compliance with the law rather than having a real effect on campus drinking attitudes. Therefore, Paul Smith’s College can only be deemed to not be in compliance with this important statute.
While the Department cannot be expected to verify the accuracy of all reports filed by the numerous institutions of higher education, the Department does have the responsibility to make appropriate inquiries upon receiving evidence that the information reported to the Department does not reflect the practices on campus. This was clearly the case with Paul Smith’s College and the Department has an obligation to take appropriate action.
By taking appropriate action in this instance of serious noncompliance which contributed directly to avoidable deaths, a message will be sent to other colleges and universities that compliance with paper alone is not sufficient. Compliance requires real changes the attitudes on campus as to enforcement and the consequences of excessive and underage drinking.
Please advise if any further information, including the full police report, is required as you address this matter.
Very truly yours,
Stephen M. Guest
5 East Maxwell Drive
West Hartford, CT 06107
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In loving Memory of Kristine Guest