OAKLAND, Maine — When police stopped an old school bus for speeding early Sunday morning, they discovered a group of underage Colby College students on board who had been drinking.
The students, who had rented the vehicle, were returning from an off-campus house in Rome rented by students to hold parties, Oakland police Sgt. Tracey Frost said Tuesday. The bus was stopped by Officer Bryant Laverdiere on High Street at about 1 a.m.
“In order to talk to the bus driver, [the officer] got on board. And as he got on, he could smell alcohol. And by looking at the crowd, he could tell they were underage,” Frost said.
A total of 22 underage students from the Waterville college were charged with possession of alcohol by consumption after alcohol was detected with a portable Breathalyzer test, the sergeant said. Two of the students, Zoe Gaffney, 19, of New York, and Robert York, 20, of Waterville, gave false names and then signed the tickets using their fictitious identities. The were also charged with forgery, Frost said.
All of the underage students have December court dates. Those over the age of 21 on the bus were not charged, he said.
Frost said that the bus driver, who was speeding 20 mph over the limit in a 25 mph zone, was given a warning because “he had a very good traffic record.”
Who provided the students with alcohol is still under investigation.
“They were out at a party in the town of Rome, which is two towns over from us,” Frost said. “A group of students out there have rented a house. We call it a ‘Colby house.’ It’s so students can get together and throw parties.”
The students on the bus “all kind of chipped in to rent a bus to get back and forth. While I admire the fact they don’t want to drink and drive, you have to be age 21 to drink,” the sergeant said.
Information about the underage drinking was given to the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and Maine State Police, who share coverage of the area, he said.
“I know they are looking into it,” Frost said.
Colby College officials were informed about the students being charged, Frost said, adding that the college has always acted quickly to address any underage drinking problems.
“They will do some follow up of their own,” the sergeant said.
All the students “are subject to Colby’s disciplinary process in addition to legal proceedings,” Ruth Jacobs, director of communications, said Tuesday in an email. “While privacy laws prohibit Colby from discussing specific disciplinary cases, we can say that we take underage possession of alcohol seriously, and repeat offenses can result in sanctions up to and including probation, suspension or expulsion.”
The school has a very strict drinking policy, especially concerning hard alcohol, the Colby website states. Students age 21 or older can have beer and wine on campus in residence halls and at approved events, but hard alcohol on campus is limited to the Pub and licensed catered events, the website states.
“Individual students and student groups are prohibited from privately possessing, serving and using hard alcohol on campus,” it states. “Reckless provision of alcohol (i.e. provision of alcohol that leads to hospitalization for intoxication or alcohol-related injury) on or off campus by Colby students is prohibited.”
The “Colby houses” — those rented by students to host parties — come and go every year, and not all of them cause problems, Frost said.
“We actually had one in Oakland last year that we had zero problems with,” the sergeant said. “We’ve been out there once in two years.”
On the other hand, “we had a ‘Colby house’ that the Waterville police department wrote about 90 tickets,” the sergeant said about an underage drinking party busted in March.
A month later, police responded to a “Colby house” in Oakland on Tilton Point Road that resulted in drinking-related charges against 11 Colby College students.