While the Residence Life staff considers implementing an official policy regarding recent poker-related problems on campus, the RDs of each residence have instituted differing informal rules for their own buildings.
The residence directors are investigating the poker-playing habits of the students to find out if there is a real problem, not to “slap another rule on people,” said Kea-Guffin RD Theresa Noye.
“We’re worried about when it goes beyond good clean fun,” said Pennswood RD Kevin Maness.
But some students are upset with the current state of rules and find ways to skirt them.
“I think the whole banning thing is stupid,” said Andrew Wenker, a senior who lives in Gough, where virtually all poker is now banned, but goes to North Campus Hall to play. “No one is playing for more than five dollars. I just feel like, kids are coming back drunk and high and they’re worried about five-dollar-poker?”
Last semester, many Eastern students were caught up in the nationwide craze for the Texas Hold ‘Em variant of poker, some playing every night. After one game last semester, a student was so angry he punched through a wall in North Campus Hall, according to several RDs. At another time, a student called his parents for money claiming he had been robbed, after actually losing the money playing poker, they said.
In Gough or Doane Halls, according to their directors Brian Crawford and Shannon Hartsock, students playing poker with money, chips, candy or any sort of gambling counter will be asked to stop. In Gough at least, the RAs have been instructed to watch for poker-playing and stop those involved.
“Until things are investigated, I don’t want them playing,” said Doane RD Hartsock.
In Kea-Guffin, players would be asked to stop when there is money involved in the game, Noye said. In NCH, people are allowed to play without restrictions, but RD Gershwin Sandberg will be “observing” the situation, he said. Pennswood RD Kevin Maness said he had not encountered any public games there, but would probably ask people to stop playing if he saw them. Details of the Hainer and Gallup policies could not be obtained by press time.
Since the student life handbook currently has no policy on gambling or card-playing, there are no punishments meted out to those who are found playing poker.
“We don’t have automatic fines,” Hartsock said. “We prefer conversations.”
However, there could potentially be fines for people who repeatedly ignore their RAs, said Gough RD Crawford.
The larger question of the eventual ban may take a while to settle, according to Dean of Students Daryl Hawkins. He mentioned the possibility of an open forum for discussion of the topic. Meanwhile, the RDs have been discussing the issue in their weekly meetings.
“There’s a massive range of opinion,” said Maness. “It’s a good conversation.”
A major concern of the administration is the jump students may make from playing poker in the lounges with friends to playing on the Internet for money, or going to Atlantic City.
Some students have spoken with the counselors at the Cushing Center for Counseling and Academic Support of gambling-related problems, he said.
But the existence of some problems does not necessarily mean a new rule will be created.
“You can’t legislate a thousand people when two people have a major problem with it,” Maness said.
And there is little doubt that some students would not support a new rule.
“I’ve heard from about a couple dozen people who would be very angry with the potential ban,” said junior Shawn Murphy.
But Gough RA Mike Skinner does appreciate and enforce the rule in his hall.
“We’re here at college to learn,” Skinner said. “If gambling gets in the way of learning, it can be a hindrance to what Eastern offers as a university.”
The issue at hand is Eastern’s very identity as a Christian university, according to Hawkins.
“Ultimately, what makes this community different?” he said. “What makes Eastern different from the universities folks didn’t want to attend?”
“Residence Life is willing to struggle with the students to find out why we are different,” he said.