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Reports on alcohol policy change prompt statement from ACU president

ABILENE, Texas — What began as a local newspaper story regarding a planned change to Abilene Christian University’s policy on alcohol use has become a much larger issue, as the church-affiliated university issued statements Tuesday it said were designed to counter the “sensationalized” coverage.
The Abilene Reporter News published a story Friday with the headline: ACU changes alcohol policy – Sanctions to be removed against legal-age drinking off campus. The story quoted Jean-Noel Thompson, vice president of student life and dean of students, as saying the change came as a result of discussions and input received from student organizations and the university board of trustees.
Thompson also told the Reporter News that the new approach is supported by Scripture, but he expects some alumni and members of the Churches of Christ to disagree with the policy.
“The last thing I want to do is to turn this into a theological debate,” Thompson said.
Readers, however, couldn’t resist.
Dozens of comments posted at the newspaper’s Web site continue to debate the decision, its motivation and the university’s role in students’ lives. The fallout prompted President Royce Money to submit a Letter to the Editor on Tuesday and to write another – to ACU staff.
While apologizing to the campus community for not communicating better with them, Money said ACU’s  plan to revise its alcohol policy for students 21 and older does not represent a “backing away of our historic prohibition of the use of alcohol by our students.”
Rather, the university determined that its current policy for adult students “was not enforceable and was unrealistic in its scope,” Money said. Disciplinary consequences for legal adults who choose to consume alcohol would be limited to situations such as serving alcohol to minors, public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
“We are committed to an alcohol-free campus in every respect, even though we are aware that the consumption of alcohol is on the rise nationwide among the under-21 population,” he said in an April 15 letter.
ACU will continue to prohibit underage drinking and plans stronger penalties for violators, Money said. “We believe this policy is biblical and will allow us to continue teaching emerging adults how to make responsible, lifetime choices.
Money said administrators are committed to an alcohol-free campus in every respect, but that “by educating students regarding alcohol from the time they arrive on campus, we hope to equip them to make healthy, wise choices throughout their lives.”
Additionally, the ACU Optimist published an article Friday about the proposed change. Newspaper staff told the Reporter News that student interest hasn’t been high, at least as it pertains to the policy amendment.
Letter to the Editor from Royce Money, president, Abilene Christian University:
Recent media coverage about a proposed alcohol policy change at ACU left the impression that the university would be backing away from its historic prohibition of the use of alcohol by our students. That is a false impression.
We are committed to an alcohol-free campus in every respect. Our proposed policy would do two things: (1) teach students how to make wise choices regarding alcohol throughout their lifetimes; and (2) tighten enforcement of our continuing policy against underage drinking.
Here are key aspects of the proposed policy for fall 2008:
1)     ACU will remain an alcohol-free campus, and all ACU-related events and activities on and off campus will remain alcohol free.
2)     ACU will continue to prohibit all underage drinking.  In fact, Student Life plans for stronger penalties and for direct conversations with students and their parents regarding alcohol use/abuse.
3)     The alcohol policy change relates only to individuals 21 and older (graduate and undergraduate). Disciplinary consequences for legal adults who choose to consume alcohol would be for situations such as serving alcohol to minors, public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
4)     We believe the policy conforms to biblical principles, as well as legal ones.  The Bible strictly condemns drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
5)     ACU’s revised alcohol policy will not represent any substantive change in the way we view alcohol consumption. However, it does put the burden on adults who are enrolled at ACU to make responsible choices.
By educating students regarding alcohol from the time they arrive on campus, we hope to equip them to make healthy, wise choices throughout their lives.

  • Feedback
    As a well known philosopher said, “Stupid is as Stupid does. Twenty years ago when we took our son to a Christian University a friend of mine took his daughter to a state university and left her in a dormitory that along with its twin highrise was referred to as Sodom and Gommorah. Looks like some “Christian” Universities are on their way to their own Sodoms and Gommorahs.
    If I came to work with alcohol on my breath I would be sent home. If I was noticably drunk I would be tested and if found positive I would be fired. If I was found to be drinking on company time and company property I would be fired.
    Universities should prepare students for the real world, which university life is NOT. University leaders as well as many church leaders in a spirit of tolerance are failing everyone.
    You cannot serve two masters. University leaders must choose their master.
    April, 18 2008

    I am a 2001 graduate of ACU and I was somewhat surprised by the announcement that ACU would be revising its alcohol policy. I never had a problem with the policy, especially since someone who wanted the opportunity to drink in college could have simply gone to a state university at a third of the cost.
    I’m not really sure why ACU characterized the local media coverage of the rule change as “sensational.” The story in the Abilene Reporter-News (written by 2004 ACU grad) said all the things Dr. Money’s letter said, but in a more interesting and eloquent fashion. The reaction had nothing to do with the way the media covered the event; it had much more to do with the emotional reaction of alums and Abilene residents. I’m certain they realized this would be a controversial move; why blame the media?
    April, 18 2008

    I seriously doubt this will affect anyone’s behavior. Meaning, those who are over 21 and drink will continue to do so whether the rule exists or not. Equally, those under 21 will continue to drink and hope to not get caught.
    The fact that the current rule “was not enforceable and was unrealistic in its scope,” is beyond the point. Rules, in an adult, responsible world that we deserve, should be followed because one respects the authority rather than one fears the consequence of the violation.
    My guess is ACU has a rule against fornication. There is no practical way to enforce that rule, however, it is still wise for it to be on the books. NOTHING is improved by relaxing standards.
    Aim high for that is where your Lord resides.
    April, 17 2008

    I attended a Christian University, and I sent one of my sons to a Christian University. If students decide to be foolish and drink off campus, no ruling by the University will stop them. It is useless for a University to have a rule it cannot enforce. Young Christians in this day and age are not so fragile that a fellow classmate with liquor on his breath will make them turn to drink. One of the greatest favors a Christian university can teach students is how to live in the REAL world. And that includes living with fellow Christians who make bad choices. I totally understand the reasoning behind this decision, and agree with it.
    April, 17 2008

    My concern about this new rule allowing adult students (over 21) the right to drink alcohol beverages off campus is how it will impact the other students in class. Students who drink off campus may later attend either day or evening classes with liquor on their breath. This is a horrible experience for anyone but for young Christians sent to a Christian college to safeguard them from the evil influences of the world is a recipe for disaster for ACU. I pray this policy will be reconsidered and reversed.
    Rob Redden
    April, 16 2008

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