Interview with Eric Codding: an Alternative Narrative

Boose-3_webWhy are EMU’s alcohol policies structured as they are? What is the intent of a dry campus? What is the range of Residence Life responses to various infractions of the student handbook? I interviewed Associate Dean of Students, Eric Codding, for first-hand answers to these questions and more.

Excepting the new no-hosting initiative, EMU’s alcohol policies predate Codding. He commented that at one time they expected all of their students not to drink, but later they aligned their policies with the state expectation of 21 and over.”

The no-hosting policy, as Codding explained, is meant to discourage students from “creating a space where . . . other students are encouraged to misuse alcohol.” He explained that it is “a different level” when a student goes beyond drinking alone or with a roommate to inviting others to partake.

Off campus, students’ behavior “can appropriately come under the concern of the broader college community,” said Codding. “Having said that, we, in Residence Life often talk about a desire to work responsibly with the things we become aware of. And so, we’re not attempting to police anything.” Incidents that could come to their attention include drinking on campus, regardless of age; drinking off campus while underage; and drinking on or off campus to the point of intoxication. Often, Codding said, concerned friends are the ones talking to Residence Life about alcohol use.

On an anonymous survey of incoming first-years, about 60 percent agreed to follow the CLC because they already lived their lives accordingly, and about 30 percent agreed to follow it specifically in the context of attending EMU. Only about 9 percent of the over 200 responses indicated they did not necessarily intend to follow the CLC.

While the dream of a unanimously upheld CLC remains unrealized, however, Residence Life is in the challenging position of being held accountable to the university to respond to students who violate the policy.

“The problem is foreseeing when there might be clear victims,” said Codding. “Once substances are misused, particularly when they’re misused and it leads to intoxication, then the ability to protect one another can be greatly diminished.”

The severity of misuse and damage caused are taken into account with how Residence Life will respond. In the most rare and severe circumstances of evaluated harm, a student may be dismissed – in technical terms, receiving an indefinite suspension.

More common cases are first time alcohol violations in which “there may be no obvious victims of harm, aside from the individual’s own circumstances. That [response] might typically involve community service, a reflection paper, engagement with a mentor, and probation.”

Codding recognizes that “if [drinking] is what people are doing, and that’s the way to connect, than that’s what many will feel compelled to do. I’m sympathetic to that.”

Students violating a written policy is not his “chief concern,” but rather, “can we make an alternative narrative possible?” He hopes for an alternative narrative at EMU where partying is not necessary for human connection or a full college experience.

“For me,” Codding said, “a better story is people getting to know one another deeply, building significant life-long relationships where they learn to challenge and support one another. Where they have a lot of fun, but they’ve maybe honed their creativity and they don’t feel the need to resort to substances in order to enjoy one another.”

In discussing his overarching vision of EMU, Codding likes “to think in terms of human flourishing:” a divorcing from the dominant narrative of college alcohol use in pursuit of something that is, hopefully, more meaningful, relational, and accountable to community.

-Randi B. Hagi, Co-Editor In Chief


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