Faculty Members Divided Over Breathalyzer Issue

Andover faculty members have expressed diverse reactions to the prospect of acquiring a breathalyzer. While some are opinionated, other faculty members remain undecided. Among the undecided are those just beginning to learn about the proposed policy, and wish to become more involved in the discussion. Many supporters of the issue are attracted to the new possibility of definite determination of guilt as well as a way to discourage alcohol consumption. A value of trust turns some faculty members against a breathalyzer policy. On the other side of the issue is the belief that student-faculty trust would increase if the ability to deny alcohol consumption were eliminated. Among those faculty members in accordance with the administration’s movement toward obtaining a breathalyzer is Rajesh Mundra, Rockwell House Counselor and Instructor in Biology. “The benefits are to use the breathalyzer in situations when a student and multiple faculty members disagree about the student’s claim to not have been drinking. I believe it would be a rare case when it would be used,” said Mr. Mundra, Another common motivator for faculty to back the breathalyzer is the prospect of deterring students from consuming alcohol. Ms. Shawn Fulford, Eaton House Counselor and Instructor in Math, said, “Students here grow up to be equipped to have fantastic lives; drugs and alcohol prevent that. If a breathalyzer can help in any way to stop drinking or get [any student] caught, it will help keep them healthier.” At the same time, numerous faculty members raise their concerns about attaining a breathalyzer. Some feel that administering these tests will harm the relationships between faculty members and students, and others believe it’s an invasion of students’ rights. In an anonymous survey, a faculty member who expressed disapproval of the proposed breathalyzer policy wrote, “Teaching is about trust. Teaching that one should be honest because he could be ‘caught’ in a breathalyzer [test] is not good teaching.” Rockwell House Counselor Mr. Ethan Bennett said, “Words like ‘drug testing’ and breathalyzer conjure a lot of ideas of possibilities of misuse and raise legitimate concerns about how it will be implemented. This understandably generates rumors when people aren’t involved in the process. Rumors can be dispelled if people’s voices are heard.” Nonetheless, Mr. Bennett also believes that the breathalyzer is “great for honesty on campus since there will be a final way to test people.” He said, “It will be more up front [and] right away.” Another issue that comes up within faculty opinion is how the current disciplinary system stresses honesty on the part of students. A problem that has occurred in the past is the continual denial of guilt, which allows the student to evade the disciplinary committee. Marc Koolen, Former West Quad South Cluster Dean, said that the goal of the breathalyzer will be “trying to promote honesty, trying to make it fair for everyone… [and] level the playing field for everyone.” Some faculty members are worried that the use of a breathalyzer will eliminate trust between students and faculty, after multiple faculty members have accused a student of drinking. Mr. Mundra said, “I do not believe a breathalyzer would erase the trust between faculty and students. I do believe lying on a student’s part or false perceptions by faculty erode this trust. If a student has been accused of consuming alcohol and has not, he or she now has a means to set the record straight.”