CHAPTER 5 · CAMPUS TOURS
Next month we will be starting our campus visits. How can we tell if a college is a real party place?
We visited three campuses in the past month. When we asked them about the drinking situation, the responses were almost identical on all three campuses: “We are no worse than anyone else. We are concerned and doing everything we can to address those concerns.” It seemed like they were all reading from the same script. Who can we talk to for the true story?
I can’t help but feel that the people who have been taking us on the campus tours are not really giving us honest answers when it comes to the drinking atmosphere at the campuses we have visited. One went so far as to say it was a dry campus and yet I noticed in the trash a wrapper from a case of beer! Help!
We have had some problems with our son and his drinking while in high school. Will the college let us know if there are any problems while he is there?
My son got a football scholarship. I wasn’t all that concerned about his drinking in high school because he always took his football seriously. How can I get him to understand the impact of drinking on his playing?
How do I know what the college allows when it comes to drinking?
I don’t drink and, quite honestly, I want to avoid it in college. How do I know what the drinking is like on a campus before I select a college?
The culture of drinking on a campus will have a direct influence on the quality of life for all the students of that college or university. Many of the negative consequences associated with college drinking affect not only the students who drink but also the students who do not drink. These “second-hand binge effects” include a number of serious consequences, such as sexual assault, violence, vandalism, loss of sleep, and even the possibility of having to care for friends and roommates in life-threatening states of alcohol poisoning. Visiting a potential campus is the best way to get a true feel for the campus environment. However, taking the tour conducted by the Admissions Office simply scratches the surface. Look beyond the tour, and you may find many other clues about the drinking climate.
When visiting a campus, arrange appointments with as many of the Key Personnel as possible (see Appendix C). Scheduling meetings may be difficult, but even if you can get in for only fifteen minutes or a half hour it will be worth the effort.
More often than not, the staff involved in the Student Life Office (also identified as Student Affairs, Student Development, and so on), which is responsible for all non-academic aspects of student life, has a better sense of alcohol issues than staff from the academic side of the campus, in particular the faculty. Through its various component offices, Student Life manages safety services for the campus community, conducts enriching learning and leadership experiences that promote personal responsibility and growth, offers support resources for students, and provides opportunities for recreation and entertainment.
Schools that take alcohol abuse seriously are willing to talk about it. As you talk with the various key personnel and other campus representatives, consider the following:
• Are the representatives stuttering, stammering, or giving you blank stares?
• Are their answers vague or evasive?
• Some administrators have mastered the cunning art of “talking out of both sides of their mouths” and will try to double-talk their way around the issue. Answers like “it’s a problem on all campuses” or “we are no worse than any other campus” are simply ways to avoid revealing the status of drinking issues on their own campus.
• Ask different people the same question and check for consistency in the message the campus representatives are providing.
Be sure to request and read a copy of the Biennial Review (described later in this chapter). When possible, visit on a Thursday or Friday. Schedule extra time to walk around the campus and the surrounding neighborhood.
Walk around the campus late at night.
As you are following the tour of the campus both with and without a tour guide, consider:
• What types of posters are hanging in the residence halls – alcohol advertisements or educational messages?
• Are there bars in close proximity? Do they offer drink specials?
• Are there loads of empty beer cans and twelve-pack wrappers piled near the trash?
• Read a number of issues of the campus newspaper, if possible. You can often view both current and previous issues online. Are there ads in the newspaper for the local bars and liquor stores?
• Are there any alcohol or other drug-related stories in the local newspaper?
VISITING THE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
If your son or daughter will be participating in a college sport, be sure to visit the athletic department. If possible, meet with the Athletic Director and/or coach to discuss not only sports-related issues, but also the team policy regarding alcohol consumption. Talk with some of the players and casually include a question about drinking.
If your student will be visiting the campus on his or her own as a guest of the athletic department, inquire about the visitation policies.
• How long do the student athletes stay at the campus?
• What do the student athletes do during the visit? Do they visit classes?
• Where will the visiting student athletes sleep? With whom?
• In addition to the host athlete(s), who will chaperone the visiting student athletes?
• What will happen to any host athletes who supply alcohol to the visiting student athletes?
ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUG POLICY
Regulations administered by the United States Department of Education require that all students receive a copy of the campus Alcohol and Other Drug Policy every year. Having the policy in hand does not guarantee that students will read it, however. For this reason, at the start of their first semester, most students will receive an orientation conducted by campus staff covering the essential components of the policy. Although it is not necessary for you to know all the rules and regulations of the campus, it would be helpful for you to have a clear understanding of how alcohol violations are handled.
At some point your student may be found responsible for violating the policy. The Buckley Amendment protects a student’s right to privacy and restricts a college or university’s right to inform parents about such things as academic performance. Federal legislation now permits colleges and universities to establish their own policies and procedures on “parental notification” regarding disciplinary proceedings. Some will inform you after the first violation while others will wait until a second, third, or even fourth. Inquire as to if and when you would be notified about an alcohol or, for that matter, any violation of campus policy.
Regulations found in the United States Department of Education Drug Free Schools and Communities Act require that every college and university conduct a biennial review of campus alcohol and other drug education and abuse prevention efforts. When visiting a potential campus, request copies of the last two Biennial Reviews from the Admissions representative. These reports can give you a sense of the alcohol and other drug climate of the campus and the efforts being made to address problematic areas.
If the Admissions representative does not know what you are talking about or cannot or will not provide you with the Biennial Review, then request it directly from the Vice President for Student Affairs or the Dean of Students. Campuses are required by law to provide these documents, and if a campus cannot do so then their education and abuse prevention efforts are certainly questionable. As a matter of fact, the college may even be in direct violation of Congressional requirements.