CLASSES begin Monday on the Washington State University campus in Pullman, and new students will find the academic challenges and independence they sought.
Incoming freshman will also discover a rigorous new attitude about high-risk drinking and drug use.
The death of a student from alcohol poisoning last October caused an institution with a party-school reputation to examine its culture.
WSU President Elson Floyd launched a 17-member task force with students, faculty, staff and community representatives.
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The panel, chaired by Dr. Bruce Wright, executive director of WSU Health and Wellness Services, produced a list of actions based on local experience and lessons learned across American universities and campuses.
Personal accountability and a rallying of influences and resources is key. For example, WSU already had a “Booze, Sex and Reality Checks” orientation program for freshman. Now they will not be able to register for a second semester until the session is completed.
The mix of changes is full of insights about campus life and student behavior. More alcohol-free floors will be added to residence halls; parents will be notified the first time an underage student violates campus alcohol policies, and professors will be asked to provide more Friday morning classes. No more three-day booze-sodden weekends — a national phenomenon quantified in a 2007 University of Missouri study.
Students will be coached to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning in others and how to help. The WSU News Center reports that nearly 2,000 college students are killed by alcohol-related injuries each year.
Research has found a growing pattern of binge drinking among college students. Wright told the WSU News Center the reasons include easy access to inexpensive alcohol near campuses, energy drinks and drinking games. Even the Internet culture with drinking apps for mobile devices plays a role.
The motivations might change over time, but the consequences do not. Floyd’s aggressive response, and the work by Wright and others, are good for students, campus life and the larger institution.
College is tough enough without a withering hangover. As Wright is quoted, Cougs looking out for Cougs is the way to go.