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Drug awareness initiatives and disciplinary policies

The Christian Chronicle asked public relations officers and administrators at universities associated with churches of Christ for information about their policies on alcohol and other drug use.
They were also asked about any initiatives taken on campus to prevent drug use. Some sent excerpts from their student handbooks, others sent general descriptions and still others arranged phone interviews to explain their policies.

Below are their responses, presented in their own words as much as possible.

The Chronicle expresses sincere thanks for the integrity and honesty of those who responded to this difficult subject.

Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas

After students at Abilene Christian voted for class officers for the 2002-03 school year, each newly elected leader got a letter from Wayne Barnard, dean of Campus Life.

Barnard told them that any violation of university policy — drinking, cheating, sexual immorality or violating chapel guidelines — could force them to give up their posts as part of their discipline.

It’s not a new policy, Barnard told student newspaper The Optimist, but one reason the letter was sent was observations by school administrators of campus trends — namely that the number of students dismissed for alcohol violations increased during the spring semester.

Although The Optimist reported that the number of alcohol suspensions was higher “than ever before,” Brian England, the school’s director of judicial affairs, said “We had six dismissals this past academic school year (2001-2002) for alcohol related offenses. During the 2000-2001 academic school year we had four dismissals.”

England provided the following information on disciplinary procedures:

“Abilene Christian University believes that it is in the best interest of any student involved with illegal drugs to be sent home for the love and support from their family.

“Our primary mission is education, therefore we do not have the resources to be the primary health care provider for the counseling and treatment needed by students involved in substance abuse. We want to walk alongside the student struggling with a drug addiction by enabling their families to become their primary source of support, encouragement and healing. We feel that it is in this context that counseling and treatment are most effective. After this process is complete, the student is restored back into the ACU community and then receives the appropriate follow-up counseling and mentoring.

“Abilene Christian University does have a non-disciplinary process. Students who come forward confessing an addictive lifestyle will be afforded an opportunity to participate in a range of treatment outside the disciplinary process, including counseling and/or medical treatment. (We have a staff of five counselors and a physician available in most cases) In these cases, the University is seeking healing and redemption for the student. If the nature of the problem is such that treatment is possible while attending school, then the University will support and walk alongside the student while healing occurs. However, the student will still be held accountable for making healthy lifestyle choices and progressing in their treatment. If a student is not showing progress, then the university will determine if Abilene Christian University is the best context for effective treatment.”

Barnard added the following comments about disciplinary procedures:

“Zero tolerance policies are not real popular, especially in this world of tolerance. But we are very clear about our expectations and the kind of community we are, so we think it is appropriate to follow through and do what we say. We do it with love and we work with and alongside people. We have to balance the needs of the many versus the needs of a few. We have a responsibility to both the individual and to the community.

“We even have a second-chance scholarship for people who are dismissed but want to return. These are students who have repented and are on the path to redemption and restoration. It’s a scholarship endowed by one of our board members whose son was dismissed several times and eventually died. Each year we award this scholarship in a private ceremony where the board member and his wife speak to the student about their situation and remind them how much they are loved by ACU.”

England provided the following information on drug awareness programs:

“ACU has taken steps in the past few years to promote drug/alcohol awareness.
Each semester, the Counseling Center selects a week to specifically target these issues. In the fall, the Counseling Center hosts Wellness Week activities, where a variety of issues are addressed like alcohol and drug abuse. One example of activities held during this week are alcohol screenings. They are done throughout the week to give students an opportunity to test whether or not they may be showing early signs of alcohol addiction.

“During the spring, activities are also done to promote a safe Spring Break. This past year, the campaign was called, ‘Making choices for Life.’ During this time, students were taken through a variety of educational activities promoting alcohol and drug awareness. This campaign will be expanded this next year and will be called ‘Safe Spring Break 03.’

“Besides these two campaign weeks, ACU brought in representatives from various other groups, like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), throughout the school year. ACU also has a variety of reading materials and resources available to students at the health center.”

Faulkner University, Montgomery, Ala.

Violating Faulkner’s no-alcohol policy could hit students in the pocketbooks. The first offense carries a fine of a minimum of $300, according to the school’s student handbook. While this may seem to favor wealthier students, Dean of Students Herman Hedgspeth said that an offender has “the option to work it off with campus service at minumum wage. If one chooses not to abide, he is then suspended.” Second offenses are treated with suspension, Hedgspeth said.

“When a student is guilty with the first offense he is referred to our university counselor in hopes of preventing the second offense,” Hedgspeth said.

The student handbook goes into detail about the reasons for university policies regarding alcohol and other drugs. According to the handbook, “Faulkner University is committed to creating a campus community where Christian friendships and relationships are the norm.

“An obvious consequence of these foregoing commitments are conduct regulations and disciplinary policies that are drastically different from what is typical at institutions lacking Faulkner’s Christian focus. On some occasions, students violate conduct regulations because of immaturity, irresponsibility and/or a lack of good judgement. In such cases the university hopes, through the fair imposition of appropriate discipline, to help the students mature and grow.

“However, some behaviors and/or attitudes are so inimical to the atmosphere Faulkner is trying to create that they simply cannot and will not be tolerated.

“When it comes to the administration of discipline, particularly in this latter context, it should be remembered that Faulkner University is a completely different entity from the Lord’s Church. Actions for which students repent and for which they are forgiven by God may nonetheless be actions for which discipline must be administered by the university, for the sake of the student so disciplined, for the sake of the campus community, and for the sake of the moral integrity of the university.

Harding University, Searcy, Ark.

While most Christian universities have zero-tolerance policies for illegal drugs, Harding’s zero-tolerance policy also covers alcohol, something that distinguishes the school from many other universities associated with churches of Christ, said President David Burks. Students caught in violation are suspended, but may use counseling services and return for the next term. When administrators discipline students, they “do it in a caring manner (and) strongly encourage them to return,” Burks said.

According to the student handbook, “As a Christian university, we will attempt to take an approach to alcohol or drug use characterized by compassion and encouragement, without prejudice on the one hand, and with directness, consistency and firmness on the other.”

Determining the number of students who leave school on alcohol- or drug-related offenses is difficult, Burks said, because some leave school before disciplinary action can be taken. “The number is hard to get at,” he said. “For some students, if they’re caught, they know they’re caught, and they withdraw.”

However, Burks stressed that the number of dismissals per year is a small percentage of the student population.

“Most of the students here are the best students in the world, but that doesn’t mean the devil isn’t going to try them,” Burks said.

Heritage Christian University, Florence, Ala.

Dean of Students Ervin Jackson submitted the following statement:

“Heritage Christian University does not immediately dismiss a student that has been found to have a problem with alcohol or drugs unless it is an extreme situation that is beyond the school’s ability to help. If the problem is not extreme, the student is assigned behavioral probation with counseling in an effort to modify his/her behavior. The counselor meets with the student and periodically evaluates progress.
“In addition, the school periodically uses a week of chapel time to address issues related to alcohol and drug use. Since there are not many problems at Heritage Christian University in this area, the previously mentioned strategies tend to be the scope of what we do.”

Lipscomb University, Nashville, Tenn.

University President Steve Flatt discussed alcohol and drug abuse with students as part of the school’s University Bible program, required of every Lipscomb student. Univesity spokesman David England submitted the following summary of Lipscomb’s policy:

1. If a student is caught using, possessing, etc., drugs, the offense calls for immediate suspension. In most cases, that is with the option to apply for readmission at a later time.

2. If a student comes to our Campus Life office and asks for help with a drug problem, that student will not be immediately suspended, but will be directed toward one of several Christian-based drug treatment programs in the area (Agape and the Woodmont Hills church are the two that were immediately mentioned as having strong programs).

“This is a little different than the way we handle alcohol violations. Alcohol may or may not be illegal, depending on the student’s age. Drugs are always illegal, so that’s a consideration.

“With alcohol use, a first offense usually (while reserving the right to act otherwise) results in probation, counseling, community service, and assignment to a small group (for support and to discuss problems that may be pushing the student toward drinking) and a mentor.

“Scott McDowell, assistant vice president and dean of campus life, says the school’s philosophy is one of ‘redemptive discipline’ — trying to use the disciplinary process to bring students out of their offending behavior and closer to the Lord. If a student asks for help, he/she will get help. If a student is caught, discipline will be applied as I’ve summarized above. Obviously, every case is different and must handled on its merits. But this is the general approach.”

Lipscomb’s student handbook is available on the school’s Web site: http://campuslife.lipscomb.edu.

Lubbock Christian University, Lubbock, Texas

The following response to questions about drug/alcohol policies comes from Randal Dement, dean of students.

“The issue of drug abuse is one that everyone is facing. We try to look at each one on an individual basis.

“If a student wants help we can provide it through our counseling office. If someone does not want help with a drug or alcohol problem then forced counseling is not the answer for the student or the university. We do not necessarily have a hard and fast rule about suspension on these topics but they are much easier to get help for the student if he or she will come in and ask for help as opposed to us catching them. Every situation is unique and all things must be considered.

“I think this peer training is a big step for us right now and I am confident that there are additional proactive steps we can take in the future.

“These are issues that we are continually looking into and trying to find more proactive ways to approach them. Our school counselor and school nurse are attending an alcohol awareness conference in Dallas in June. This will allow them to train student leaders (orientation leaders, RA’s, club officers) to be peer counselors on these issues. We know that the students are on the front line and can have a greater impact earlier than we can.”

Ohio Valley College, Vienna, WV

The following comments come from Rebekah D. Mathis-Stump, dean of enrollment and marketing and general counsel for the school:

“As alcohol and drug use by teenagers increases in our country, our students are exposed to that lifestyle very early. At OVC, we realize that trend, and are making efforts to increase awareness about the dangers of alcohol and drug use.

“OVC’s Code of Conduct prohibits the purchase, possession or use of alcohol and illegal drugs (whether on or off campus). Additionally, the Code of Conduct prohibits the abuse of prescription drugs.

“In addition to suspending students for a designated time for any violation of the above policies, we prescribe mandatory counseling for any offense.

“The counseling may either take place on campus with one of our staff or we can make referral to an off-campus counselor. The counseling serves two purposes. First, it can serve as a warning to the casual user. Second, counseling can serve as support to the addict. Consequently, the time required in counseling will vary depending on the circumstances.

“We also reserve the right to contact local authorities regarding under-age drinkers and any illegal drug user.

“Also of note, we have a zero-tolerance policy for drug sellers. If one of our students is selling drugs (whether on or off campus), we will immediately dismiss that student.

“Of course, all of these policies are spelled out in our Student Handbook and thoroughly discussed at our Orientation, along with the reasons for the policies (we explain the risks of alcohol and drug use at that time). We also use other forums for awareness education (chapel, class discussions, etc.).

“As you can see, we are much more geared toward counseling students who are using alcohol or drugs, whether they are a first-time user or an addict. But, we recognize the place for punishment. That’s why we still suspend students and reserve the right to call local authorities when a law has been broken. Of course, it is possible that one of our students just refuses to be helped, and in the case of multiple violations and the failure of counseling, we will dismiss a student.

“We have been blessed to have very few violations of alcohol or drug policies in the past year. We pray that our students and others will continue to be protected from those temptations and when they are encountered, that they will make the right choices regarding alcohol and drug use and abuse.”

Oklahoma Christian University, Oklahoma City

Acting President Alfred Branch addressed the student body during spring semester. Following is a statement he submitted to the Chronicle:

“We love every student on our campus at Oklahoma Christian University and are extremely concerned about each student’s spiritual and physical health.

“Ours is not a campus where we need pie charts and graphs to track crime. Our students are Christians, and are expected to be dedicated to Christian values and morals on our campus.

“As stated in our student handbook, any alcohol or drugs found on an individual on our campus during a regular or unannounced inspection is grounds for immediate dismissal. Our student services staff is available to any student who seeks help in dealing with alcohol or drug issues.”

Pepperdine University, Malibu, Calif.

The following responses to questions about drug policies come from Mark Davis, dean of student affairs at Pepperdine:

“Having been a student at Harding University and a staff member at Abilene Christian University and Pepperdine University, I’m aware first-hand that our Christian college campuses are not immune to alcohol and other drug abuse. This isn’t surprising given the number of students who experiment with alcohol and other drugs during high school.

“While some students use the transition to college as an opportunity to put their ‘party’ days behind them, others find the additional freedoms of college life too tempting, and they engage in destructive behaviors that have become the focus of national concern. …

“I’m pleased that the deans of students at church of Christ-related universities openly discuss these challenges at our annual conferences. We share resources, review policies and support and pray for each other as we seek the most effective ways to help our students who struggle with alcohol and other drug abuse.

“Individual counseling is available to our students through our counseling center, and we hose Alcoholics Anonymous groups on our campus. Sometimes students are referred to outside agencies for specialized care.

“We participate in the National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week, bring speakers to campus who have overcome drug abuse through Christian resources, and utilize other educational media. However, research shows that educational approaches appear to be limited in their impact and must be supplemented by other interventions such as stronger policies and community partnerships.

“Pepperdine is currently developing a comprehensive strategy for addressing alcohol and other drug abuse. As a part of this initiative, I recently conducted a focus group with parents of our students to discuss ways that the university can create a stronger partnership with parents to address this challenge.

“Together, we developed a new parental notification policy that will become effective this fall. Such policies have shown promising results on other campuses nationally.”

Davis referenced a study at the following Web site: http://www.edc.org/hec/pubs/prev-updates/notification.html

Pepperdine’s counseling services and policies are listed online at http://www.pepperdine.edu/studentaffairs/studenthandbook/policiesandprocedures.htm

York College, York, Neb.

The following information is from York’s 2002-2003 student handbook:

The unlawful possession, use, or distribution of drugs and alcohol by any York College student is prohibited both on and off campus.


York College students are not permitted to drink wine, beer, whiskey, or other such intoxicants either on or off campus. Attempting to purchase, purchasing or possession of intoxicants also is prohibited. Being at an alcohol party constitutes possession. By enrolling in York College you agree to submit, at the request of the Hall Manager or other designee of the Dean of Students, to a Breathalyzer test for the purpose of determining consumption or use of alcoholic beverages. Failure of a student to submit to such tests constitutes grounds for dismissal or other disciplinary action.

Disciplinary action for a first alcohol violation may result in a four-day suspension from campus. A second alcohol violation during the academic year at York College will result in immediate dismissal.


York College students are not permitted to purchase, possess, or use narcotics, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, or solvents. Failure to observe these regulations may result in being dismissed from York College.

Prescription drugs are for the exclusive use of the person for whom the doctor prescribes the medication. By enrolling at York College you agree to submit, at the request of the Hall Manager or other designee of the Dean of Student Services, to blood and urine tests (at your expense), for the purpose of determining consumption or use of drugs. Failure of a student to submit to such tests constitutes grounds for dismissal or other disciplinary action including drug education (at your expense) loss of scholarship, fines, campus/community service, and probation. A drug related felony conviction might disqualify a student from receiving future federal financial aid.

Barbara Goodwin, dean of students, added the following information about school policies and initiatives to combat drug use on campus:

“Students tend to come to York College with noble goals for academic, social and spiritual growth. However, they also come with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and baggage. Students seek help with their problems through relationships with our caring faculty and staff, our trained counselors, or campus ministry personnel. They are often able to work through difficulties outside of the disciplinary system.

“When a violation of the alcohol policy comes to my attention, there is usually a four-day suspension for a first violation. When a student returns to campus after being on suspension, a re-entry counseling session is held with the student, his or her advisor, coach, residence hall manager and the dean of students. The session is arranged to help the students get back on track toward his or her goals for attending college. At that time whatever support is determined appropriate is offered to the student. Trained counselors are available to the student on campus and in the community.

“Each year training is given to student leaders in residence life, campus ministry, and student government so that they can be more effective in helping fellow students with various problems. A program called ‘Flashing Your Brights’ has been used to encourage student leaders to speak to potential danger ahead when they see others in destructive patterns of behavior. We are continuing to look for effective and appropriate ways to educate students about the potential dangers of alcohol and drug abuse.”

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