Live Responsibly

April 29, 2008

SMU President Announces Decisions on Recommendations for Substance Abuse Prevention

DALLAS (SMU) — SMU President R. Gerald Turner has accepted 36 of the 38 recommendations recently made by the University’s Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention


Related Links:
 • President Turner's Decision
 • Executive Summary of the Decision
 • See a video of President Turner's briefing
    on his decision. It has been divided into
    Part 1 and Part 2 because of length.
 • Task Force's Recommendations

Media Coverage:
 • WFAA-TV
 • The Dallas Morning News
 • The Daily Campus
 • The Houston Chronicle

on programs, policies and issues related to alcohol and drug use. Some recommendations have been accepted partially or with modifications, limitations or reservations; or will be considered with more study. Two recommendations have not been accepted.

“As the Task Force has wisely stated, no one policy or program alone can guarantee wise decision-making on the part of students encountering new freedoms at college or those entering with existing drug and alcohol problems,” Turner said in his report. “It is our hope, however, that the many recommendations we will implement will strengthen a culture of personal responsibility and academic achievement, a community in which students make the best use of resources, programs and assistance.”

In addition, Task Force recommendations were made within the context of SMU’s changing academic profile. “As the number of applications continues to grow, and the average standardized test scores of our students continue to improve, it is important that SMU continue to enhance its ability to nurture the increasing intellectual strength of our incoming students,” Turner said.

Under the accepted recommendations, SMU will:

  • Establish an ongoing President’s Commission on Substance Abuse Prevention to monitor progress and continually review programs and policies. To be in place for the 2008-09 academic year, the Commission will include representatives of numerous campus offices and organizations, from Student Affairs and SMU Police to the Office of the Provost and Campus Ministries.

Other recommendations fall into specific topical areas, as follows:

Health and Medical Services

Two recommendations are accepted and one requires further study. Under accepted recommendations, SMU will:

  • Expand hours of the campus Memorial Health Center until 3:00 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, to be staffed by a nurse with on-call physicians. The Health Center also will research providers of a 24/7 medical and counseling call-line for possible use by SMU.
     
  • Continue education efforts through existing programs and expand training of students and staff in use of these programs, but seek a replacement for one vendor-provided on-line program, in consultation with students.

A recommendation that SMU improve support services for recovering students will require more study, Turner said, into the scope of need and the availability of such services close to campus. Student Affairs officials will form a group for this study to report by December 31, 2008.

Enforcement

Five recommendations have been accepted and two are accepted with limitations. Under accepted recommendations, SMU will:

  • Eliminate the Passive Participation Policy from the Community Standards for Residence Life and Student Housing, based on widespread input that the policy led to citations of students not involved in alcohol violations and discouraged safe practices such as use of designated drivers. The change will be effective fall 2008. At the same time, Residence Life staff must continue to work with students to ensure compliance and responsible behavior with regard to alcohol or drug use.
     
  • Review Judicial procedures to be sure they are clearly stated and implemented consistently. To be completed by the end of the fall semester, this review will include consideration of community service in lieu of fines.

A proposed Good Samaritan Policy and Medical Amnesty Program have been accepted with limitations. Under Good Samaritan, a student who seeks emergency medical help for a fellow student will not face a sanction if he or she also violated alcohol policy, but that student will be required to participate in education programs regarding alcohol or drugs. Under the Medical Amnesty Program, the same will apply to a student who seeks emergency help for him or herself. However, police agencies will have the ability to cite or arrest individuals for public intoxication and use of illegal drugs. The Office of Student Affairs will develop procedures for implementing these policies.

Other accepted recommendations under Enforcement are to:

  • Form a group of campus officials and representatives of the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission to meet with local bar owners to address issues of under-age drinking and marketing activities that promote excessive behavior. The vice president for Student Affairs will establish this group by the start of fall semester 2008.
     
  • Strengthen the partnership between SMU Police and University Park Police; SMU and UP will share an officer on the North Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, which consists of area police departments and federal agencies to collect the latest information on drug use, trafficking and trends affecting this region.
     

  • Establish a central resource for gathering and acting upon reports of students exhibiting signs of distress. Information from existing campus committees and meetings on this topic will be consolidated in the Office of the Dean of Student Life, and the SMU community will be educated on the use of this resource.

Academic Recommendations

All academic recommendations have been accepted. Under these recommendations, SMU will:

  • Call upon faculty to announce and utilize an attendance policy, emphasizing the importance of attendance in meeting academic expectations and enabling faculty to take note of frequent or long absences, a potential sign of student distress.
     
  • Increase the number of classes to be held on Friday, to lengthen the academic work week.
     
  • Provide mid-term grade reports during students’ first two years of college and provide early reports for first-year students.
     
  • Limit the number of course drops that can be taken during a student’s academic career. The Provost’s Office will work with the faculty, deans and Registrar’s Office to determine the maximum number, to be decided during the 2008-09 academic year.
     
  • Give final comprehensive assessments during the designated exam period for every lower-division course. The Provost’s Office and deans will work with academic departments to implement this recommendation in courses where an exam is appropriate.
     
  • Revise course curricula to ensure that most students spend at least two hours of outside work for every hour spent in the classroom, if that is not already the case. The Provost’s Office will work the deans, associate deans, department chairs and faculty in helping to implement this recommendation.

Social Recommendations

“The objective of these recommendations is to make the campus conducive to gathering with friends in a safe environment,” Turner said, and to bring social and academic life closer together. Of the recommendations, four have been accepted; five have been accepted with limitations, reservations, modifications or partially accepted; and two have not been accepted.

Under the overall recommendation of making the campus a center of activity, President Turner has accepted with limitations a recommendation that the Hughes-Trigg Student Center extend its hours and become a true “student union.” Student Center hours will be extended to midnight Sunday through Wednesday, and until 2 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, beginning December 2008. In addition, expanded hours will be considered for the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports. However, given the presence of administrative offices in Hughes-Trigg, making the Center a true “student union” will depend upon finding other locations for some of those offices. Once the spaces have been identified, funding will be provided to student organizations for expanded programming.

Other accepted recommendations under Social Life are to:

  • Include campus ministries and faith-based organizations in expanded activity on campus.
     
  • Establish and maintain a Web-based calendar posting all student events on campus, and establish a task force under the vice president for Student Affairs to recommend ways to encourage student participation.
     
  • Emphasize the use of venues such as Meadows, Dedman Center, Ford Stadium and the Boulevard for late-night events on weekends.
     
  • Encourage all student organizations to sponsor more late-night, on-campus events on weekends.
     
  • Make all events associated with recruitment into Greek organizations (“rush” as well as “pledge period”) alcohol-free, including off-campus events on weekends.
     
  • Gain agreement from Greek leaders to discourage all organized parties, including the use of buses, on school nights. All organized campus parties should be registered with the Dean of Student Life Office.

Accepted with modifications is a recommendation that SMU establish in or near Hughes-Trigg a game/recreation room available until late at night. Turner noted that a previous game room was under-used, and additional space in Hughes-Trigg might be better used to visit, relax, or watch television. The game room proposal will have to be evaluated carefully.

Accepted with limitations is a recommendation to increase lighting on campus. To evaluate this need, SMU will reinstate its annual “lighting walk” across campus for student leaders and campus officials to review lighting and safety precautions and identify specific areas of concern.

Partially accepted is the recommendation that the University reconsider the timing of Greek recruitment activities, a topic evaluated by a recent Ad Hoc Committee, which recommended keeping rush to the time period between the end of the fall semester and the start of the spring term. Noting the advantage of having rush during a time when no classes are offered, Turner rejected a reconsideration of this topic. However, he does call for examining “the components of the recruitment process that may affect a students’ academic performance,” such as length of the pledge period, dangers of possible hazing, rules of contact, and grade averages required for membership. He echoed the sentiment of the Task Force that fraternities and sororities “emphasize their historical roots of service, philanthropy, scholarship, leadership and personal responsibility.”

Accepted with reservations is a recommendation that funding be provided for informal dinners and other social occasions for faculty and student interactions. The provost and vice president for Student Affairs will create a task force to review ways to implement this recommendation.

Two social life recommendations are not accepted:

  • SMU will not permit organizations to sponsor parties and to serve beer on campus to those of drinking age. “A substantial number of the national boards of Greek organizations do not permit open parties in their houses where alcohol is present,” Turner noted. “The University should encourage the remaining national organizations to adopt similar practices.” However, SMU will create a Social Event Registration Process for all social organizations to register their events, allowing these groups to be updated as to liability risk, University polices and guidelines of their national organizations. He is appointing the vice president for Student Affairs to form a task force to develop the necessary procedures.
     
  • SMU also will not establish a pub on campus. “Although the stated motivation for creating a pub has several positive components to it, the advantages do not overcome the disadvantages,” Turner said. He noted that campuses with successful pubs have a higher number of students age 21 and over, and the majority of SMU students living on campus are first-year, underage students. Because most upper-division students live off campus, they would be driving home after being served at the pub, increasing the risk of impaired driving.

Communication Recommendations

All five recommendations have been accepted. SMU will:

  • Gather and assess all its materials with information on substance abuse education regulations and resources to create one coherent handbook for the entire campus community.
     
  • Develop a communications plan to enable all members of the campus to hear the same information on substance abuse issues and remind them about regulations and resources. This will begin with student consultations on venues and messages that have credibility with them and also will include information for parents, faculty, staff and alumni.
     
  • Clarify regulations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as they would apply to communication between SMU and parents regarding their students’ drug or alcohol problems. FERPA waivers can now be completed on-line, and a new Web site will include a tutorial for faculty and staff. The FERPA Web site also will be promoted to all constituencies.
     
  • Avoid the use of images that seemingly promote alcohol use in communications and products. The SMU Bookstore has changed its displays of items related to alcohol use, and efforts will be undertaken to have the student media review its policies regarding alcohol advertisements.

A final communication recommendation calls for President Turner and members of the upper administration to remain involved in substance abuse prevention efforts through communications with parents, faculty, staff, students and alumni.

In accepting the recommendation, Turner said, “All University executives, including the president, vice presidents, and deans, are expected to support responsible behavior of our students as they continue to accentuate the academic expectations and quality of the institution,” In addition, Turner will work with the Commission on Substance Abuse Prevention to provide an annual report on efforts to promote responsible behavior and publicly address substance abuse issues.

Parent Partnership Recommendations

Two of the three recommendations under parent partnerships have been accepted, and one will require further evaluation. SMU has accepted recommendations to:

  • Encourage students and parents to discuss FERPA and HIPPA and the advantages of signing waivers. FERPA forms will be provided to parents during check-in, and HIPPA forms and FAQ sheets will be distributed during Health Center check-in at AARO (academic orientation). All AARO sessions will now be recorded to be available on i-tunes.
     
  • Set aside time during AARO for parents and students to discuss together substance abuse issues and regulations. A special session will be added for this purpose, and information on the parents’ Web site will continue to encourage discussions.

SMU will continue to evaluate a recommendation that the University work with parents to identify students entering SMU with substance abuse problems, in order to begin counseling and recovery efforts. “It is unlikely that SMU would knowingly admit students with well-established problems with drugs and alcohol,” Turner said. However, he will ask the vice president for Student Affairs and the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Office to evaluate further this recommendation.

“I wish to thank members of the Task Force; the faculty, staff and students who contributed to deliberation of these issues, and all those who in the future will make a positive impact on a student’s decision to live responsibly and fully benefit from this learning community,” Turner said.


For More Information:
Patti LaSalle
Tele. 214-768-7660
plasalle@smu.edu

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SMU News & Communications, 214-768-7650, smunews@smu.edu