Brandeis: Alcohol and Drugs?

Today, President Lawrence sent out an e-mail to the Brandeis community about the “report from the ad hoc Committee on Alcohol and Drug Policy.” The Committee was “formed last fall to review the university’s policies regarding student use of alcohol and drugs and to offer broad-based recommendations to enhance the health and safety of our community.” (ie after Pachanga)

Here is a selection of the report’s most interesting findings.

Highlights of the Report’s Introduction

  • “…it is clear is that our campus experiences multiple highly dangerous situations each year.”
  • “The Committee did not assess the extent of the alcohol and drug use at Brandeis, nor even the effectiveness of the multiple programs that exist to deal with substance misuse…rather, we considered ways to enhance current policy to protect each student and community member.”
  • “As will be clear when one reviews the recommendations, the Committee does not believe that a punitive approach is the most effective way to address these issues.”

Most Controversial Suggestions

Health Protection

  • 2. Based on an assessment of current research, and perhaps the conduct of an experiment at Brandeis, Health Center medical personnel should consider adding a standard assessment tool for screening individuals for drug and alcohol use during routine annual physical exams and other appropriate encounters. Several such screening tools exist.

Prevention and Awareness

  • 4. An on-line alcohol education course such as Alcohol-Wise or Alcohol Edu for all incoming students, including transfer students and graduate students. Until it’s possible to provide the training to each class, the course should also be made available to student leaders, upperclassmen, student athletes. It should be made mandatory for students who have violated campus alcohol policy.

Environment and Community

  • 5. Consider the relationship of currently unrecognized fraternities and sororities to the student body.
  • 6. Work with Athletics to encourage greater student presence at sporting events and emphasize the role that support of sports teams plays in developing community and school spirit.

Strongest Recommendations

Health Protection and Safety

  • 1. “Efforts should be undertaken to enhance education of the campus community about the role/use of BEMCo and the University Police. The function of Campus Police and emergency response system to protect students, already widely understood, should be repeatedly emphasized. It should also be made clear that follow-up by the University is intended to be educational and preventative, rather than judicial.”
  • 5. Graduate students are an increasingly large component of the campus community and have needs for alcohol and drug services that may differ from undergraduate students. Consideration needs to be given to how to serve this population effectively.

Prevention and Awareness

  • 6. Peer education, demonstrated to be highly effective at preventing harmful alcohol and drug use. Provide more resources to support and sustain the alcohol/drug peer education group, PERC, with the intention of involving more upperclass students as peer educators and role models. Participation could be offered as an internship or for academic credit, and students should receive training sessions and attend a conference. These students could provide alcohol/drug educational “refresher sessions” and/or “booster sessions” through the students’ tenure.

Environment and Community (*The Strongest Section)

  • 4. Extend the weekend availability of the Gosman Athletic Center and the library, as well as the weekday hours and overall services at the Stein and other locations. The goal would be to provide additional options for social gathering.
  • 8. Strengthen programs that allow students to choose housing based on lifestyle considerations. In particular, Community Living should consider how to support/expand the Common Cause Communities for upper-class students (Substance Awareness for Everyday and Balanced Living House) to first and second-year students.
  • 9. Explore the possibility of serving alcohol at large campus events in a way that models expectations for responsible use.
  • 10. Expand transportation to off-campus events to protect the safety of students returning to campus.
    Review requirements to register parties to ease barriers to informing Community Living and campus security.
  • 11. Review requirements to register parties to ease barriers to informing Community Living and campus security

The full text of President Lawrence’s e-mail concerning the report is printed below:

“Dear members of the Brandeis Community,

Today, I am releasing a report from the ad hoc Committee on Alcohol and Drug Policy, which was formed last fall to review the university’s policies regarding student use of alcohol and drugs and to offer broad-based recommendations to enhance the health and safety of our community.

I applaud the committee for its diligence and its commitment to its charge. As the report notes, the review was framed in terms of Brandeis’s educational mission and core values.

The use and abuse of alcohol and drugs on college and university campuses locally and across the country has been well documented and is of great concern to all of us. As Committee Chairman Professor Leonard Saxe noted in the report, the goal here was not to determine if the alcohol and drug situation at Brandeis is better or worse than at other institutions, or even whether the situation on campus has improved or deteriorated. Instead, the purpose was to connect with all campus constituencies to consider ways to enhance current policy to protect each student and community member.

The committee did that in the brief time it had available. I now want to continue its fine work because there is value in a thoughtful extension of its efforts. To that end, I have asked Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel to examine the committee’s recommendations and to determine how best to integrate them into the life of the university. In the near future, he will assemble working groups to help him conduct that assessment.

Some of the recommendations in the report can be implemented in the short term. Many other suggestions will require further study to understand fully the resources they require in order to implement them effectively. We are fortunate at Brandeis to have on our faculty and staff a range of expertise on which we can draw as we engage in this process. Student voices, which were integral to the committee’s work, will be a vital component of this phase as well.

I am grateful to members of the committee for their important work on a subject I take very seriously. This report highlights many of the things Brandeis does well. It also describes some of the challenges we face and offers paths we may follow to make improvements. I encourage you to read it and consider its meaning for this community. I believe we can be most effective in dealing with this critical issue by working together as partners.”