Colleges, by nature of dealing with young adults often on their own for the first time, sometimes find themselves in the role of surrogate parent. Now, officials at Washington State’s Pullman campus are seeking ways to effectively ground some students.
The university has announced steps in an attempt to curb binge drinking and drug use by students. Among the plans:
• Notifying parents the first time an underage student violates alcohol and drug policies.nScheduling more Friday classes (studies have shown that having class the next day helps reduce binge drinking).nAdding more alcohol-free floors to residence halls.nRequiring alcohol screening for at-risk students and providing intervention if necessary.n Teaching students how to recognize signs of alcohol poisoning and how to intervene.
While viewed by some as a rite of passage or a matter of students just being students, alcohol abuse can be a serious problem for colleges. WSU officials were moved to take action following the death of a student from alcohol poisoning last October, and a new state law that took effect in July exempts minors from being charged for minor-in-possession if they are seeking medical assistance for possible alcohol poisoning.
Nationally, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 700,000 students annually are assaulted by fellow students who have been drinking, and more than 1,800 die as a result of alcohol poisoning or related accidents, including car crashes.
That leaves WSU and other colleges to straddle the line between a parental role and their educational mission; the two are not mutually exclusive. College is about more than studying philosophy or arguing politics; it’s about learning to make personal choices in a social setting. Playing parent might not be the ideal role for a university, but to some degree it is a necessary one. And it is an important part of helping students make the journey between adolescence and adulthood.