Substance-free housing implies policy contradictions

Incoming freshmen have enough questions about college as is, and an on-campus housing option often causes confusion. Substance-free housing puzzles many students and parents who may not fully understand the concept.

According to Housing and Residential Life, students on a substance-free floor “agree to abide by any and all University policies including all regulations regarding living substance free.”

Now hold it there a second. What’s the point of the student handbook? Granted, school and dorm policies are relatively lenient on transgressions, but the extra “substance-free” label is contradictory.

For example, substance-free students agree that if they “fail to abide by any and all policies,” they will move to a floor that is “more suitable to their lifestyle choices.” This calls into question the expectations for other floors.

If housing faces problems with rowdy residents, it seems like the best solution would be to discipline those who disturb their floormates rather than separating them from better-behaved students. That the substance-free option exists does not excuse freshmen running amok on other floors, setting things on fire, letting ducks into the elevator and leaving unsavory evidence of not sub-free nights in the bathroom trashcan.

However, we recognize that the school needs to balance strictness with forgiveness, primarily for safety reasons. Take the university’s current amnesty policy, which allows students to seek medical help without leaving anything on their permanent record.

In practice, what UM calls “substance-free” housing may be a good option to have. Students can be grouped with similarly-minded individuals, not only to abstain from (already) prohibited substances, but also to share other living habits, interests and academic priorities.

The floors should be named to more clearly emphasize the individual’s decisions rather than restrictions in place. Something that suggests the residents are “anti-substance” will contradict less with the university’s alcohol policies and clarify what kind of commitment should be involved in choosing that living community.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.