It happens on campuses during fall weekends and has the power to rile up students and fans alike.
But it's not football.
Whether it's for possession of a fake ID or open beer can, universities in the Southeastern Conference have their own way of dealing with alcohol-related arrests. But what happens after an arrest differs in Auburn than it does in Athens.
As underage drinking is a prevalent concern on college campuses, many schools have policies that promote education, assistance and punishment to tackle the problem. A recent analysis conducted by The Red & Black of SEC schools' alcohol policies indicated the University's policy was similar to what many SEC schools use.
The University's policy states for first offenses of underage alcohol possession or consumption, minimum consequences include a six to 12-month probation and an alcohol education course; a second violation could warrant a suspension. Other sanctions may be added to the minimum consequences, such as community service or rehabilitative programs.
The University policy, which went into effect last year, differentiates between consumption and possession of alcohol, includes a standard probationary period and requires parental notification after a student's first offense. The changes came after concern for recent drug and alcohol-related incidents, such as the 2006 death of University freshman Lewis Fish. Fish was found dead in his Russell Hall dorm room, and an autopsy determined a combination of heroin, cocaine and alcohol was in his system.
"Ultimately, the judicial process is fundamentally an educational and administrative process. We want students to learn and grow so they don't get a second offense," Alan Campbell, associate dean for Student Affairs, said. Though many factors make it difficult to determine the process' impact on each policy violator, "some students that do go through that experience report being motivated in changing behavior," Campbell said.
The Student Government Association has studied the alcohol policies of other schools and has gauged student response about the University's policy, SGA president Connor McCarthy said by e-mail.
"I think everyone was pleased with those changes that differentiated possession from consumption," McCarthy wrote. "And those changes that standardized the probationary period, both of which have undoubtedly benefited students."
"We still hear, though, that the 'punishment doesn't fit the crime' or that rulings are 'one-size-fits-all,'" he said.
Ole Miss follows a similar policy in which a second alcohol-related offense may lead to a student's suspension, according to the school's Web site. Others, such as Mississippi State, Tennessee and Florida, determine punishments based on individual cases, but consequences usually range from probation to suspension or expulsion.
The University of Arkansas, LSU and Vanderbilt follow a prescribed list of sanctions in which multiple offenses garner stricter consequences. For example, a minor in possession at Vanderbilt could warrant a reprimand and an educational program, but a third alcohol-related offense could mean suspension, Bridget Williams Golden, assistant director of the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity at Vanderbilt, said by e-mail.
In addition to its consequences, Arkansas looks at a collaborative approach that includes education, counseling and support such as safe ride programs for students who do drink.
"We're articulating what we believe is the appropriate educational response to inappropriate use in hope to get students to drink less," said Daniel Pugh, associate vice chancellor/dean of students at Arkansas, who also used to work in Athens. "It goes back to mature management. If you're 18 and walking down Lumpkin Street with a beer in your hand, that's not a really mature decision."
Many SEC schools - such as the University, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi State - expect students to follow university policy off campus, and have agreements with local law enforcement to report student alcohol offenses that happen in the surrounding town or county.
"It is reasonable to assume that some behaviors exhibited by students, even off campus, might have a negative impact on the health, safety, or welfare of the campus community," Todd Borst, associate director of Judicial Affairs at the University of Alabama, wrote in an e-mail. "This section of the Code affords the University the opportunity to act to protect the broader interests of the students and the University."
Auburn and Florida look at serious off-campus offenses, such as DUIs or alcohol-related violence. "If it's an underage drinker at a bar or an apartment, that's under local jurisdiction," said Chris Loschiavo, assistant dean of students at the University of Florida.
South Carolina will not only accept local arrest records, but also those of students' hometowns, Jerry Brewer, associate vice president of Student Affairs at South Carolina, said.
Parental notification and medical amnesty
All SEC schools have a parental notification policy to alert parents of their student's drug or alcohol-related offense or emergency. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 allows schools to waive a student's privacy to their educational records if a student violates school drug and alcohol policies.
Under the University's policy, parents are notified after a student's first alcohol-related offense to allow parents to be aware of and help the student address the behavior. Later notification also could jeopardize health insurance, because many plans may deem a student ineligible if the student has been suspended from college, Campbell said.
The role of medical amnesty varies by university. If a university offers medical amnesty, students who seek assistance for an alcohol-related emergency for themselves or a friend may not face university judicial action for coming forward. The University and others, such as Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, have official medical amnesty policies.
Florida has an emergency room policy that determines whether students should go through an educational program, counseling or treatment after their hospital stay, Loschiavo said.
South Carolina handles alcohol-related emergencies on an individual basis, Brewer said. "[Getting help] is a sign, at least in situations that I've been in, that someone is doing the right thing, because you are in a better situation," he said. "It's not a 'get out of jail free card,' but it's also not a punishment."
At Mississippi State, a "Good Samaritan" policy allows officials to have the discretion to waive disciplinary action if it hinders students from helping a student in need, Bill Kibler, vice president for Student Affairs at Mississippi State, wrote in an e-mail. "Students who are deemed publicly drunk by [Miss. State University Police] usually have two options . they go to county jail or they go to the emergency room."
The University of Kentucky does not have medical amnesty, but it is up to the officer who responds to the situation, said Andrew Smith, director of the Alcohol & Health Education office at Kentucky. "We do promote the importance of keeping our students alive and safe in these instances."
So whether University students have been arrested for fake IDs or consuming beer, chances are their counterparts - from Oxford, Miss. to Gainesville, Fla. - may be facing a similar education process.