Traditional undergraduate students received an email in late September informing them about a change in the university’s student Standards of Conduct regarding alcohol usage. While the policy on alcohol has not been revised, the wording was updated to clarify the university’s no-tolerance attitude toward alcohol abuse by any student, not just those underage.
The former alcohol policy was previously amended several years ago, but Executive Director of Communiversity Chuck Strawn said he realized it could be made clearer to students.
The former alcohol policy stated:
12.1 Hosting Gatherings Involving Alcohol or Drugs: Persons who host or in any way assist or promote a gathering (on or off campus) that includes alcohol given to underage persons, underage consumption of alcohol, illegal drug usage, or any drunkenness will be subject to probable suspension or expulsion from the university. Those living at the location where the party is held may be held responsible as hosts regardless of who provides the alcohol.
“The word ‘underage’ becomes the pin there,” said Strawn, who also acts as the chairman of the Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force. “We didn’t change the policy. We just moved it and made it clearer.”
Strawn said the old policy also placed too much emphasis on “disruptive gatherings.” For example, he said, a student could interpret the old policy wording to mean that loud cheering at a Super Bowl party sans alcohol is prohibited.
“The issue isn’t only the disruption,” he said. “It’s house parties or gatherings where alcohol is the central focus.”
The updated policy (12.1) now makes it clear that any student, regardless of age or location, who is caught under the influence of alcohol will be subject to discipline:
Persons who host or in any way assist or promote a gathering (on or off campus) that includes any of the following will be subject to probable suspension or expulsion from the University:
- Indication of any participant being under the influence of alcohol (i.e., tipsy, buzzed, drunk, etc.)
- Alcohol given to underage persons or underage consumption of alcohol
- Illegal drug usage or illegal usage of controlled substances
The updated policy continues to mention that those who live in the same house as the host, even if they are not supplying the alcohol, may be held responsible.
APU applicants are required to affirm the student Standards of Conduct before enrolling. Current students are often asked to reaffirm that they will abide by the standards, such as whenever they are required to change their APU account password every academic year.
A man of many roles, Strawn is also the contact for off-campus student support and accountability — essentially, the resident director for off-campus students, as he put it.
Strawn works with the associate dean and Office of Residence Life to review the student handbook every year and, as an RD-like figure for off-campus students, he listens to and works with undergraduates as well.
“My role is to check in and say, “Hey, are you OK? How can we help?” he said.
If a student is caught under the influence of alcohol, “we’re going to have a conversation about what’s going on,” he said.
Despite the change, senior psychology major Jennifer Young said she doesn’t think many students look at the alcohol policy anyway.
“I don’t really care [about the change],” she said. “There’s a lot of students on campus who will still drink, a lot of students will still go out and get drinks. I think no matter how strictly they try to enforce it, students are going to find their way around it.”
The 21-year-old Young said she will still go out and get the occasional drink, because she knows her limits.
“I think it’s good that they address it rather than sweeping it under the rug … and that they have set some boundaries,” she said. “It shows that they care about their students and they’re not just choosing to ignore it.”
According to Strawn, the 2011 National College Health Assessment of APU students showed that the perception among the university’s student body that other students on campus drink is much higher than the reality, pointing to a culturally unhealthy expectation of alcohol consumption.
“I think society would tell us there’s no such thing as just one beer,” Strawn said. “It’s an excess ideology of ‘I’m supposed to drink to have a good time.'”
Senior marketing major and campus life intern Tim Youndale said that although alcohol abuse is around, he doesn’t think it is a big problem at APU.
Youndale said Strawn approached him to take a look at the updated policy before it was made official.
“I liked the change a lot,” Youndale said. “I think it puts it in a more straightforward way.”
Ever since the alcohol policy was last amended several years ago, fewer students have been abusing alcohol, according to Azusa Police Department statistics.
“I’m so proud of them. Our students genuinely have been using better judgment in this area, and we’re so pleased,” said Willie Hamlett, associate vice president for student life. “It still happens some and we take very seriously that it does. That is not an OK behavior for our students.”
Hamlett said that several years ago, an APU student nearly died in the hospital from alcohol poisoning. The student was allegedly drinking a bottle of hard liquor “like a soda.”
“Friends watched this happen and watched this student nearly kill himself. So-called friends,” Hamlett said. “I would suggest that all people should be educated about the use and abuse related to choices related to the use of alcohol. Do so with your eyes wide open.”