Live Responsibly

Response to the Report
of The President’s Task Force
on Substance Abuse Prevention

By President R. Gerald Turner
April 29, 2008

SMU’s Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention has met its charge to review existing programs and services and propose needed modifications; to examine University policies that have an impact on student activity outside of class; and to consider external forces affecting student choices and behavior.

Following my review of the more than 30 recommendations made by the Task Force, I assigned further study to the appropriate University vice presidents responsible for the “programmatic” areas addressed in the recommendations: Health and Medical Services, Enforcement, Academic Life, Social and Cultural factors, Communication, and Parent Partnerships. By April 15, each vice president submitted his or her recommended actions, methods of implementation, and projected costs. Based on this additional input, I decided which recommendations could be accepted, which would be accepted with modifications, which would require further study and consideration, and which would not be accepted at this time.

Before outlining my decision on each Task Force recommendation, it is important to make note of the larger context affecting SMU’s efforts at prevention and education and the many programs and policies already in place.

The national issue of substance abuse on college and university campuses, and even in the lower schools, is highly complex, often involving factors beyond the influence of an individual institution or the traditional college or university environment. For this reason, university programs and policies must operate on many levels in an effort to guide students and create an environment that promotes good decisions.

At one level is the responsibility to educate students about the risks and consequences of alcohol and substance abuse. This is the basis for the many educational activities, print and online materials, and campus discussions aimed at helping students make better decisions based on accurate information. At another level is the need to hold students accountable for irresponsible and/or illegal behavior through enforcement and sanctions as will be seen in the recommendations and decisions outlined in this report.

Obviously, the most important goal is to prevent, if at all possible, loss of life among students who fail to be guided by education, regulations, or sanctions. If intervention can prevent the loss of a student’s life, the University, in cooperation with parents, can have a second chance at education and prevention of future abuse. In an effort to encourage intervention by peers, recommendations aimed to encourage students to seek immediate medical help for themselves or their peers, and improvements in campus resources for emergency assistance have been affirmed.

Underlying all possible scenarios is, of course, the campus culture and environment within which students make decisions. Thus, you will see many actions outlined to strengthen a culture of academic achievement, personal well being, and social responsibility, attributes that are consistent with the Methodist tradition in higher education. The foundation for this culture consists of strong academic expectations, a clear understanding of the consequences of failing to meet those expectations, a rigorous schedule of classes and requirements influencing the amount of time students must devote to academic or creative work outside of class, lab, or studio settings. At the same time, other actions will be taken to strengthen the campus itself as a vibrant and viable setting for responsible social activities and the building of community.

These decisions are intended to maximize academic achievement and minimize the time and opportunities available for social endeavors that do not contribute to one’s personal development and well being.

An integral part of our efforts will be an enhanced relationship between the University and parents intended to increase the parents’ awareness of the issues and consequences associated with alcohol and drug abuse, knowledge of education programs, and treatment resources available to students. Working together, the University and parents can provide a strengthened support system encouraging students to make wise decisions and responsible choices.

I wish to thank all those who have contributed to our efforts to date and those who will play a further role in making our students’ collegiate experience the best that it can be for the high purpose of preparing them to lead full and rewarding lives.

 

General Recommendation of Task Force

Recommendation:  The Task Force recommends the establishment of an ongoing President's Commission on Substance Abuse Prevention.

Accepted.

This Commission will be put in place for the 2008-2009 academic year. It will monitor the implementation of the adopted resolutions as well as provide an ongoing review of the effectiveness of University policies and practices with respect to the prevention of substance abuse. It will report directly to me. Over the summer, the offices and organizations noted in the Task Force Report will be requested to submit nominees for the committee. Other members will be added as needed.

 

Health and Medical Services Recommendations

H1) Recommendation:  Expand on-campus health services to include extended hours for the Memorial Health Center, making available after hours nursing/medical staff, and arranging for after hours on-call physicians. We also strongly recommend initiating a medical hotline to answer SMU student's immediate medical questions and facilitate emergency medical care.

Accepted with limitations.

The Memorial Health Center will work toward expanding hours of nursing/medical services available on campus for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, staying open until 3:00 a.m. each of these three nights. Given projections about the need for Medical Health Center services after normal hours, an expansion on the days of highest expected usage would seem advisable. If additional expansion is suggested after the first year of implementation, additional evenings will be considered. 

A nurse will be available at the Health Center with on-call physicians. The nurse will be able to assess and triage acute medical problems to local hospitals. For non-urgent conditions, the nurse would make appointments for students to return to be seen by a physician the next day. As noted, adding late service for three nights, rather than all seven, will provide an opportunity during the first year of operation to evaluate the number of students utilizing the expanded hours and the cost effectiveness of the availability of the medical care with the addition of required security at the Health Center. Such after-hour services at university health centers on other campuses are limited strictly to medical care and do not provide counseling, alcohol, or drug interventions during those times. The latter would be transferred to a hospital with staff, equipment, and necessary laboratory tests needed to care properly for students.

In addition, the Health Center will evaluate providers of a 24/7 medical and counseling call line. Several universities have such call lines outsourced to private companies. Health Center staff will investigate options and select the best service for SMU.

H2) Recommendation: that SMU continue to educate SMU students through programs like TIPS and "Because I Care," but also to replace AlcoholEdu (once that contract expires) with another education program. Students should be involved in the evaluation and selection of a replacement for AlcoholEdu, and SMU should monitor best practices to find the most effective educational vehicles in the area of alcohol and drug abuse prevention.

Accepted.

SMU's contract with Outside the Classroom, the provider of AlcoholEdu, expires in summer 2010. We will use the remaining time on this contract to research and identify an alternative that is more accepted by students.

In fall 2008, the Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and the Dean of Student Life will form a committee of students, faculty and staff to review educational programs that address alcohol and drug-related issues. Programs to review may include myStudentBody.com, Alcohol Wise, Under the Influence, and Alcohol Response-Ability.

Factors to be considered by the committee for program selection will include the experiences of other campuses, evidence-based outcomes, student feedback, cost, and user-friendliness. SMU will continue to monitor best practices to determine the most effective educational vehicles in the area of alcohol and drug abuse prevention.

Additionally, SMU will continue to train staff on use of the TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures) and "Because I Care" programs. Currently we have 15 staff members that have been trained/certified to teach these interactive programs with students. Student groups such as Resident Assistants, Greek leadership, student organization members, orientation student leaders (AARO & Mustang Corral), etc., will receive this hands-on training at the beginning of each year and/or when they assume office. We will also provide opportunities for other interested members of the campus community (faculty, campus ministers, and others) to receive TIPS.

H3) Recommendation: that SMU work with existing groups of recovering students and the community to develop and improve support services for recovering students. This might include the development of specific recovery housing and programs and the expansion of 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

More study required.

 To make specific recommendations about expanding services for recovering students at SMU, more research is needed into the number of such students and the effectiveness of services that already may be available close to campus, including their cost effectiveness. As a result, the Vice President for Student Affairs will work with the Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention to form an advisory group to survey the student body about recovery issues, to identify needs, and to make recommendations about the possible expansion of recovery support services on the SMU campus. These recommendations will be made by December 31, 2008.

 

Enforcement Recommendations

The University has the responsibility to provide an environment in which the laws and policies of State, City, and University are upheld, and in which students share the responsibility to support these efforts. As will be seen below, changes in policies that are viewed as most objectionable by students will be made. However, the University community must always be mindful that one of our major collective responsibilities is to make every reasonable effort to provide a safe environment for our campus community. As a result, the major goal of the University is to create within this context an environment in which individuals take responsibility for their behavior and encourage responsible and appropriate behavior among their friends and acquaintances.

E1) Recommendation: that we eliminate the Passive Participation Policy from the Residence Life and Student Housing Community Standards.

Accepted.

The purpose of the Passive Participation Policy was to encourage students to remove themselves from situations where policy violations, or violations of law, were occurring. It was also its intention to teach students to hold others accountable for inappropriate behavior. Students and parents have complained that the policy leads to the citation of students who may only be present and not otherwise involved in impermissible activities and discourages responsible behavior such as utilizing designated drivers.

With the elimination of this policy, it remains important that Residence Life staff be trained and encouraged to have conversations with students who are "passive participators" to encourage these students to exercise good judgment.

The Passive Participation Policy will be eliminated beginning with the fall 2008 semester.

E2) Recommendation: that SMU charge the Judicial Affairs Office with ongoing review of judicial procedures.

Accepted.

The Vice President for Student Affairs will oversee a review of judicial procedures to be sure that they are clearly stated and consistently implemented. Issues surrounding parental notification and assigning community service in lieu of fines also will be evaluated. This review is underway and will be completed by the end of the spring 2009 semester for implementation in the 2009-2010 academic year.
 

E3) Recommendation: that SMU implement a Good Samaritan Policy.

Accepted with limitations.

The purpose of this policy is to encourage students to report violations of SMU’s alcohol and substance abuse policies when the health of a fellow student or students is at risk.

A student who may or may not have violated the substance abuse policy would call for assistance for a fellow student whose intoxication or drug use level may be endangering his/her own life. Under this recommendation, the student, who has called for assistance and who is in violation of the substance abuse policy (Good Samaritan), would not face an SMU conduct sanction, but may be required to participate in education programs regarding alcohol and/or drugs. However, any police agency will have the ability to cite/arrest individuals for violation of laws regarding public intoxication or use of illegal drugs.

E4) Recommendation: that SMU implement a Medical Amnesty Program.

Accepted with limitations.

The purpose of this policy is to encourage students to report violations of the alcohol/drug policy when their own health is at risk. Under this recommendation, a student proactively seeking health care for an alcohol or drug violation would not be subjected to the judicial process.

At universities that have accepted similar recommendations, the student must still meet certain conditions in order to avoid the judicial process. If these conditions are not met, then the student would be subject to disciplinary procedures.  However, police will have the ability to cite/arrest individuals for violation of laws regarding public intoxication or use of illegal drugs.

The Vice President for Student Affairs and the Vice President for Legal Affairs will be asked to develop a policy that would encourage students to call for medical assistance for themselves. If the student asking for assistance follows the procedure of the policy, he or she would not be subject to judicial action, although he or she would be required to attend educational sessions. The policies at other universities will be reviewed for examples of best practices in this area.

E5) Recommendation: that a group be formed to meet with and work with local restaurant and bar owners. The group would consist of representatives from the Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, the Dean of Student Life Office, SMU PD, TABC (Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission), Risk Management, Greek Life, Legal Affairs, etc. The group would work closely to outline problems and issues and then work collaboratively with area businesses to address those issues in order to prevent underage drinking, marketing and the promotion of drinking games, and other risky behavior.

Accepted.

This approach has been used by other universities in an attempt to convince local bar owners to eliminate the more irresponsible promotional programs that some use to promote the sale of alcoholic beverages. This group will be formed by the beginning of the fall 2008 semester by the Vice President for Student Affairs with participation by a broad range of members of the University community.

E6) Recommendation: that SMU Police strengthen drug enforcement efforts by partnering with University Park Police Department and placing an officer on the North Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force.

Accepted.

Discussions are underway between SMU and University Park Police Departments to each share, at .50 F.T.E. each, a University Park officer who is trained by H.I.D.T.A. The shared resource would provide SMU with the capabilities to: 

  1. Train SMU officers in the latest information regarding drug trends, including drug identification, use, trafficking, enforcement, and rehabilitation resources.
  1. Meet with student groups and other campus constituencies to educate them on drug abuse and drug rehabilitation services.
  1. Link the SMU Police Department with current, relevant intelligence on drugs affecting the SMU community.
  1. Establish better, more effective relationships/cooperation between SMU/University Park officers and other drug enforcement agencies/personnel.

North Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force is composed of more than 200 members, including Dallas Police Department; Arlington Police Department; Dallas County Sheriff; Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Drug Enforcement Agency; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Internal Revenue Service; and U. S. Secret Service. Their mission is to reduce the availability of illicit drugs and drug-related violence by information gathering and sharing aimed at dismantling and destroying drug trafficking organizations operating in the North Texas region. It is anticipated that this would be a two-year commitment, after which continuation in the program will be reevaluated.

E7) Recommendation: that SMU support a central resource for gathering and acting upon reports of students exhibiting signs of distress.

Accepted.

Several University programs were in place before the shootings at Virginia Tech last year. However, these programs have been reviewed and new programs developed.

  • Dean of Student Life Office - Coordinates student concerns received from faculty, staff, and/or students. Conducts intake assessments and facilitates mandated mental health evaluations. See the brochure that is available on this procedure: www.smu.edu/studentlife, Recognizing Students in Distress.
     
  • CREW - Weekly meeting of professional staff (Residence Life and Student Housing, SMU Police Department, Judicial Affairs, Parent Programs, Greek Affairs, Student Senate, Counseling Center, Drug and Alcohol Center, etc.) that review incidents or behavior of concern.
     
  • Students of Concern Committee – Meets on a regular basis to share information and develop strategies for working with and counseling specific students who are experiencing academic, social, and/or residence life conflicts affecting their "every day" experience as a student at SMU and that of other students. The Committee is comprised of at least one (1) member from each of the following groups: Faculty, Risk Management, Counseling and Psychiatric Services, Provost Office, International Students, SMU PD, Judicial Affairs, Residence Life, and Student Affairs.
     
  • Troubled Students Committee – Formed by the Vice President for Student Affairs in fall, 2007, and meets on an as-needed basis to review and assess overall risks associated with specific students who have exhibited concerning and/or threatening behavior. This Committee is comprised of the Vice President for Student Affairs, the Dean of Student Life, the Provost, the Vice President for Business and Finance, the Associate Vice President for Business and Finance, an attorney from the Office of legal Affairs, the Chief of the SMU Police Department, other relevant staff and/or faculty.

In addition to the foregoing, a Students of Concern Database will be created: This database has recently been developed and will allow various individuals and offices (Dean of Students; Vice President for Student Affairs; Residence Life and Student Housing) to record reports of various interactions with students and parents, faculty and others to "connect the dots" regarding students about whom there is concern. This database will also allow us to better gather data about the types of student cases that are receiving attention. The office that will receive all of this information from faculty, staff, and administrators for a centralized review will be the Dean of Student Life.

 

Academic Recommendations

The recommendations within this section are oriented toward helping the entire campus community strengthen "the academic and cultural life of the University while diminishing the troubling dimensions of social life at SMU."  These recommendations for academic policies are intended to enhance and encourage academic achievement and on time graduation.

A1) Recommendation: that every undergraduate class have a stated attendance policy and that attendance be taken.

Accepted.

The Office of the Provost, the Council of Deans, and members of the Faculty Senate agree with the recommendation and its rationale. The recommendation, properly, does not identify a particular way in which the faculty member should take attendance, nor does it require these records to be turned into a particular office. However, it does call on faculty to announce and utilize an attendance policy, which will be communicated to faculty by their Deans and Department Chairs.

The University Catalog already contains a policy in this respect:

"Regular class attendance is required. The instructor of each class announces at the beginning of the course semester policies regarding the effect of class attendance on the student's standing in the course. These policies may include dropping a student from a course for nonattendance after a certain number of absences."  Undergraduate Catalog 2007-2008, p. 40.

A2) Recommendation: that every college and school hold a significant number of classes on Friday mornings. Specifically, the Task Force recommends that as many sections as possible of ACCT 2311 and 2312 be offered on a WF or MWF schedule.

Accepted.

The Office of the Provost agrees with this recommendation and its rationale. The Deans are in agreement, and the Dean of the Cox School of Business did not object to this specific suggestion regarding these required courses for business majors.  This recommendation also drew little opposition from members of the Faculty, although the Student Senate did object.

Unrelated to this recommendation, the number of Friday undergraduate classes has grown, with approximately 500 being offered on Friday this spring semester. This increase in Friday classes is being necessitated, in part, by a need for more efficient classroom utilization. Implementation of this recommendation will have the additional benefit of continuing efforts to improve the efficiency of space utilization on campus. Therefore, the Provost and Deans will work with departments to implement this recommendation where appropriate.

A3) Recommendation: that the current practice of asking for mid-term grade reports be extended to cover students' first two years and that early reports be requested for first-year students. Greater faculty participation in reporting must be encouraged.

Accepted.

Early grade reports for less-experienced students are a reminder of academic expectations and can expose problems that warrant attention or intervention. The Provost will convene meetings with the Council of Deans and the academic Associate Deans of the Schools to implement this recommendation.

A4) Recommendation: that the drop policy continue to allow students to drop a class at any time through week 10 of each semester, but that we limit the number of career drops allowed for each student. Exceptions for special circumstances can be accommodated, for instance, when a student must withdraw from several classes to change majors.

Accepted.

The Office of the Provost will coordinate with the faculty, the Registrar's office,  the Records officers of the various schools, and student leadership to work out the details of this recommendation for implementation. Among the components to be determined are: (1) whether 10 weeks or 12 weeks is the appropriate deadline, and (2) the maximum number of drops to be allowed for each student. These decisions will be made during the 2008-2009 academic year.

A5) Recommendation: That final comprehensive assessments be given during the designated exam period for every lower-division course.

Accepted.

The Office of the Provost and Deans will work with academic departments to implement this recommendation in classes where a comprehensive assessment is appropriate.

A6) Recommendation: that course curricula be revised as necessary to ensure that most students will spend at least 2 hours in outside work for each hour spent in the classroom.

Accepted.

The Office of the Provost agrees with this recommendation and its rationale. The Deans and Faculty also are in agreement. The Provost's office will work with Deans, academic Associate Deans, and Department Chairs in helping implement this recommendation.

 

Social Recommendations

As a reported by the Task Force, this group of recommendations resulted from the findings of 13 focus groups and many other constituencies of the University community. The recommendations aim to change the social culture at SMU by bridging the gap between social and academic life, encouraging a five-day week of academic activity, making the campus itself a center of responsible activity, and discouraging off-campus social activities that are in unsafe places encouraging excessive behavior.

S1) Recommendation: that SMU make a concerted and coordinated effort to make the campus a hub of activity to bring the social life of students back to campus. The objective of these recommendations is to make the campus conducive to gathering with friends in a safe environment. This broad recommendation is a product of widespread agreement among members of the Task Force and includes the following specific recommendations:

(a)   Continue activities at the Hughes-Trigg Student Center until 2:00 a.m., at least on weekends. Make Hughes-Trigg and others areas genuine gathering places for students, faculty, and staff. Hughes-Trigg, or some other venue, should be a true student union, not primarily a place for administrative offices and meeting rooms.

 Accepted with limitations.

 In the absence of both space and resources to expand significantly the Hughes-Trigg Student Center, administrative office space within the Center will need to be relocated in order to gain programming space. The Vice President for Student Affairs will work with the leadership of Hughes-Trigg to begin identifying space that could be made available for student activities.

Once such space has been identified, funds will be annually allocated to support programming within the Hughes-Trigg Student Center. All registered student organizations will be eligible for support of campus-wide activities within Hughes-Trigg. The Hughes-Trigg staff will work with students and student organizations to determine the best use of these programming funds toward increasing student activity in Hughes-Trigg and/or other campus venues for late night programming.

The initial operational hours of expansion at Hughes Trigg will be until 12:00 a.m. on Sunday through Wednesday and until 2:00 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. More hours will be added, if the demand dictates. Working with Campus Planning and Plant Operations, the Office of Student Affairs will have a goal to implement these changes by December 2008.

The Vice President for Student Affairs will work with the staff of the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports toward expanding hours for its operations based upon student demand and subsequent traffic. This expansion will be undertaken for the fall Semester 2008.

(b)   Include the campus ministries and faith-based organizations in the expansion of activity on campus.

Accepted.

 Programming for the expanded hours within Hughes-Trigg could be assisted by the various organized campus ministries and by efforts to include these ministries in other on-campus activities, such as the Boulevard on game days. The Office of the University Chaplain will work with the Dean of Student Life to support this recommendation.

(c)    Re-establish, within or close to Hughes-Trigg, a game/recreation room that would be available to students until late at night.

 Accepted with modifications.

 As discussed in S1) (a) above, space for recreational or casual use will be identified within the Hughes-Trigg Student Center. The greatest utilization may come from identifying a place to relax, watch television, or simply talk. Past game rooms in Hughes-Trigg have not been successful, and a pool table/ping pong area is available in the Dedman Center. Therefore, the design of any proposed game or recreation room will need to be carefully evaluated to achieve the goal of high utilization by students.

 

(d) Emphasize use of other campus venues - Meadows, Dedman Center, Ford Stadium, the Boulevard - for late-night events on the weekends. There are numerous possibilities - flag football games sponsored by student organizations "under the lights" at Ford Stadium, basketball games, climbing competitions, and all-night Dance Marathons at Dedman Center; midnight movies on the Quad, and musical and improvisational events at Meadows.

For decision, see (e) below.

 

(e) Encourage all student organizations to sponsor more late-night, on-campus events on weekends.

Accepted (both d and e).

The Vice President for Student Affairs, through the Office of Student Life, will assess the number and characteristics of campus events currently being conducted and to publish a comprehensive calendar of such events for the University community. The creation of a Web-based calendar that is updated regularly is critical to informing students and then getting them involved on campus. However, it has been difficult to get the leadership of organizations trained to submit information to such a calendar. Nevertheless, the Office of Student Life will employ a student worker to maintain such a Web calendar as a first step in the process of implementing this recommendation.

The Vice President for Student Affairs will create a task force to recommend ways to encourage student organizations to hold events on campus in the evenings and weekends. In addition, the process for reserving outdoor and indoor spaces will be reviewed in order to make the process as user friendly as possible.

 

(f) Establish a pub on campus. This pub would serve a variety of snacks, meals, and, in conformity with applicable laws, a beverage menu that includes beer and wine for those of drinking age. Rice University provides a model for the operation of such a pub.

Not accepted.

 The overall goal to increase activity on campus is important to the future success of many University initiatives as noted throughout this document. Therefore, although the stated motivation for creating a pub has several positive components to it, the advantages do not overcome the disadvantages attendant to creating one at this time. Among these are the following: 

 

(1)       Campuses of our relative size on which pubs have been successful usually have a much higher residency of students 21 years of age and older. With only a first-year residency requirement, the majority of students living on campus are not 21, the legal drinking age, particularly during the fall semester. Although the sophomore residency requirement will not dramatically increase the number of age-21-and-over students, it will hopefully encourage more upper-division students to choose to live on campus. Therefore, at some point in the future, the possibility of having a successful pub operation may increase.

 

(2)       One of the major concerns regarding alcohol and drug abuse is the issue of driving while one is under the influence of these substances. Because most of our upper- division students live off campus, a pub would put the University in the difficult position of serving alcohol to upper-division students who would then get in their cars and drive to their apartments off campus.

Given the points above, it is unlikely that conditions exist at SMU to create a successful pub at this time. Therefore, this recommendation, although well presented, is not accepted.

 (g) Permit organizations to sponsor parties and to serve beer on campus to those of drinking age. Such on-campus parties would require the approval of the Vice President for Student Affairs/Dean of Student Life. Parties would be limited to Friday and Saturday Nights, based upon the University of Southern California model. Sponsoring organizations would be responsible for hiring bartenders and the requisite number of police officers. Sponsoring organizations would be held responsible for compliance with policy, and violations would result in sanctions, including suspension of this privilege, against the offending organization.

 Not Accepted.

 A substantial number of the national boards of Greek organizations do not permit open parties in their houses where alcohol is present. The University should encourage the remaining national organizations to adopt similar policies, a trend likely to follow since the Fraternal Insurance Purchasing Group prohibits such open parties.

However, a process needs to be developed for Greek and other organizations to have parties on campus.  One component of this process would be to establish a Social Event Registration Process whereby all social organizations will register their on- and off-campus events.  Social Event Registration will allow student organizations to be updated about their liability risk, University policies, and the guidelines of their national organizations.

The Vice President for Student Affairs, through the Office of Student Life, will create a task force to develop the procedures for the Social Event Registration Process. Among the issues to be evaluated are the nature of activities to be approved for Monday through Thursday evenings, identifying the events and days for which buses may be utilized, and a review of activities currently occurring that create high risk for the organizations, their members, and the University. These procedures should be developed over the summer and approved for the fall 2008 semester.

(h)   Increase lighting on campus. For campus night life to be inviting the campus must feel like a safe place to be after dark, especially to female students,

 Accepted.

 In order to evaluate which areas of campus need enhanced lighting, the Vice President for Student Affairs and Vice President for Business and Finance will reinstate the annual “lighting walk” across campus during the fall semester. The Police Department, CPPO, and student leaders will be organized to review campus lighting, illumination standards, and safety precautions. CPPO and the Police Department will host the event early each fall semester. It will be an opportunity to educate the participants about the illumination standards and for them to express concerns about particular areas of campus.

S2) Recommendation: that all events associated with recruitment into Greek organizations ("rush" as well as the "pledge period") be alcohol-free, including University-sponsored activities and those sponsored by the organizations themselves, such as off-campus weekend events. Where violations of this standard occur, sanctions should be placed on the offending organization.

Accepted.

A best practice, as outlined by the Fraternal Insurance Purchasing Group, is that "All recruitment or rush activities associated with any chapter will be non-alcohol. No recruitment or rush activities associated with any chapter may be held at or in conjunction with an alcohol distributor or tavern as defined in this policy.” Therefore, requests for off-campus weekend events as a part of the recruitment process would have to be evaluated under this requirement.

S3) Recommendation: that the officers of the Intra-Fraternity and Panhellenic Councils, as well as the leaders of the individual Greek organizations, discourage all organized parties, including the use of buses, on school nights. All off-campus parties must be registered with the Dean of Student Life.

Accepted.

The offices of Student Life and Student Affairs will develop the Social Event Registration Process (mentioned in S1)(g)). As a part of their review of proposed organized parties and activities, the date of the event will be closely reviewed. As recommended, all organized parties, including the use of buses, should be discouraged for school nights. The Office of Student Life will work with Greek organizations and other student organizations to develop procedures for on-campus events Sunday through Thursday evenings. But, the spirit of the recommendation is that all off-campus parties should be registered with the Dean of Student Life and go through the Social Event Registration Process.

S4) Recommendation:  that SMU appoint a panel to examine recruitment into Greek organizations and to make recommendations to the University administration. During Task Force deliberations, there was considerable discussion about the timing of recruitment. Some members spoke to the benefits that may be associated with moving recruitment to Fall Break with initiation occurring before school starts for the spring semester; others emphasized the beneficial impact of moving recruitment to the beginning of the sophomore year; still others emphasized the recent work of the University Ad Hoc Committee that recommended keeping t the the spring semester. Resolving these issues was seen as beyond the scope of the Task Force. Thus, the Task Force recommends a re-examination of Greek recruitment in light of (1) the recommendations of this Task Force and (2) the recommendations of the President's Task Force on the Honors Community at SMU. This review should include all aspects of the process: the timing of recruitment during the academic year, the length of the "pledge Period," the time commitment imposed on active members of Green organizations, the rules of contact and both the minimum grade point average and hours completed that are required to quality for recruitment and pledging.

Partially Accepted.

It is noted in the recommendation that the University Ad Hoc Committee in the recent past supported keeping recruitment at the beginning of the spring semester. There is simply not an ideal time during the academic year for recruitment into Greek organizations. Nevertheless, having the period of time between fall and spring semesters, when no classes are underway, for this activity to occur is a major advantage for holding it at that time. In addition, recruitment at this time allows a semester for students to get acclimated to the University before some divide up into specific Greek organizations. Therefore, I continue to support the conclusion that recruitment be kept at the beginning at the spring semester and do not believe that time should be spent re-evaluating that decision after such a brief period of time.

However, the components of the recruitment process noted in S4) that may affect a student’s academic performance do indeed need continued examination. Among these are: the length of the pledge period; the time commitment imposed by Greek organizations or their members; the continuing possibility of hazing; the rules of contact; and the minimum grade point required for membership. I will ask the Vice President for Student Affairs to create a task force to review these issues.  The University will continue to encourage fraternities and sororities to emphasize their historical roots of service, philanthropy, scholarship, leadership, and personal responsibility.

S5) Recommendation: that funding be provided to support informal dinners and other social occasions for faculty members and students to interact outside of the classroom.

Accepted with reservations.

The Provost and Vice President for Student Affairs will create a task force to review the best ways to implement this recommendation. It is projected that a small pilot program will need to be developed to determine the best way for the academic goals of this recommendation to be met.

 

Communication Recommendations

C1) Recommendation: that in order to ensure that relevant laws, campus regulations, consequences, and resources are clearly explained and adequately understood, SMU gather and assess all its materials dealing with alcohol and drug abuse and produce a simple, coherent, non-contradictory "handbook" for the entire community.

Accepted.

The Department of Public Affairs will work with Student Affairs to assess all materials related to alcohol and drug abuse and produce a coherent handbook, both print and on-line versions, for the entire community. This resource will be very useful in communicating with both parents and students, as well as faculty and staff.

C2) Recommendation: that SMU develop a comprehensive communication plan so that every member of the community hears SMU's messages related to good decision-making, behavioral expectations, regulations, available resources for assistance, and consequences.

Accepted.

The Office of Public Affairs will develop a communications plan to ensure that all members of the community hear the same messages and are reminded frequently of substance abuse issues, resources, and consequences. This would begin with consultation with students on possible content and venues that would be effective and credible for them. Activities to consider including in the plan are the following: 

  • Review of materials and production of consolidated handbook noted above.
     
  • A new website with consolidated information and links to other sites, including a moderated blog to post questions, concerns, etc.
     
  • A regular item in every Parents newsletter with reminders and information updates.
     
  • A statement of expectations in major student recruitment materials and website.
     
  • Meetings with The Daily Campus and daily news show produced by students to encourage discussion of issues and resources.
     
  • Development of student-centered posters, fliers and email postcards.
     
  • An exhibit or other “presence’ in Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports and Hughes-Trigg Student Center on issues and resources.
     
  • Presentations to the Student Senate, Faculty Senate, Staff Association and Parents Council and Alumni Association.

C3) Recommendation: that SMU clarify FERPA regulations as they would apply to communication between SMU and parents regarding their students' alcohol or drug problems. Further, we recommend that students be encouraged to sign waivers permitting information to be shared with their parents. FERPA guidelines should be clearly and consistently communicated throughout the campus.

Accepted.

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) waivers will soon be available for students to complete via Access, and will include check-offs to give release permission regarding grades, health, and judicial information through one form. The new Access form will be noted in upcoming catalogs and other information sources. Faculty and staff can check Access to see if a student has signed a waiver.
     
  • Information on FERPA will include encouragement by SMU that students sign the waivers and that parents discuss FERPA and the benefits of giving permission with their students.
     
  • The new FERPA Website and tutorials will be provided to all new faculty and staff and be provided through The Faculty Senate, Center for Teaching Excellence, Staff Association, Student Senate, all SMU communication vehicles, and several campus activities.

C4) Recommendation: that SMU avoid the use of images that seemingly promote alcohol use in its communications and products (such as merchandise). Examples would include posters by alcoholic beverage sponsors of athletic events, "drinking games" reportedly sold in the SMU Bookstore, and prominent, front-of-store displays of SMU-branded shot glasses in the Bookstore. Although the student newspaper enjoys freedom of press and is published by a corporation separate from the University, an effort should be made to meet with its leaders to ascertain its policy or guidelines on accepting advertisements for alcohol products and bars.

Accepted.

The SMU Bookstore already 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. The University itself has been very consistent in not having alcohol companies sponsor SMU events.

C5) Recommendation: that President Turner and the upper administration of SMU remain involved in substance abuse prevention efforts through communications and interaction with parents, alumni, faculty, staff, and student groups.

Accepted.

The President and all University Executives, Deans and Directors are expected publicly to support responsible behavior of our students as they continue to accentuate the academic quality of the institution. The annual report of the Commission on Substance Abuse Prevention will provide the President with an opportunity to bring these issues to the attention of the campus annually. 

 

Partnership with Parents Recommendations

Although one of the roles of college and university life is to help students progress from adolescence to young adulthood, the guidance, support, and discipline that parents can continue to provide may be a significant part of this process. For those students who are fortunate enough to have parents who can help guide them, the University needs to enhance the opportunity of a constructive relationship with parents to promote healthy, responsible decision- making by our students.

P1) Recommendations: that parents be encouraged to discuss FERPA and HIPPA rules with their students and encourage the students to sign waivers allowing the University to contact parents.

Accepted.

Currently, the University distributes FERPA release forms to all new students when they check into AARO. SMU has been on the leading edge of making these forms and this information available to parents and students during AARO for the past 10 years. Information about these forms is discussed with students and with their parents during several sessions offered at AARO (Parent Welcome, Parent Panel, Question and Answer session following the Social Issue Vignettes, and the Enrollment Services session). Beginning this summer, we will also provide copies of the form to parents during check-in.

Currently, HIPPA is discussed during the Health Center session of AARO and also the Parent Panel. HIPPA forms and FAQ sheets will now be distributed during the Health Center check-in at AARO.

A new initiative that the New Student Programs Office will begin for AARO 2008 is recording all AARO sessions so that they can be available on i-tunes. These podcasts will make it possible for any student or parent to refer back to a session, or to visit a session that they missed during the AARO program.

In addition, more information about FERPA and HIPPA will be added to the Parent Website, as well as posting the release forms on the website.

Parents and students will be encouraged to have the student sign the release form in order for the University to communicate with the parents.

P2) Recommendation: that SMU work with parents to identify students who are entering SMU with established problems with drugs and alcohol to get the students involved from the start with counseling and with recovery groups.

Continue to evaluate.

It is unlikely that SMU would knowingly admit students with well-established problems with drugs and alcohol, and it is unlikely that parents would identify their students before the enrollment process is completed. However, as noted in other sections, there are numerous ways to inform all students of resources available to them, and new procedures will make it easier for faculty and staff to identify and refer students with such problems. The Vice President for Student Affairs and the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Office will continue to evaluate the possibility of this recommendation.

P3) Recommendation: that an AARO session be set aside to promote conversations between parents and their students about the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol; about the legal, psychological, physical, and social consequences; and about the laws and University policies governing these substances.

Accepted.

The AARO staff will work to create programming for summer 2008 involving both parents and students.

In the past, AARO staff has divided the students and their parents for group processing of the vignettes focused on issues that students might confront during their time at SMU. However, this summer there will be a joint parent/student- facilitated session at a meal so that conversations between students and their parents can occur. There will be a "worksheet" on each table during dinner and the vignettes to help parents and students begin the conversation (topical table format). This added session will be designed specifically for parent/student communication on issues of alcohol and drugs, including the psychological, physical and social consequences, and the laws and University policies governing these substances.

In addition, information will continue to be posted on the Parent Website encouraging conversations between parents and students on this topic.

 

Conclusion

As the Task Force report 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 campus with existing drug and alcohol issues. University students are, in the final analysis, responsible for their individual choices. It is our hope, however, that the many recommendations we will implement will strengthen a culture of personal responsibility within a campus community willing to provide resources, programs, and assistance in order to enhance and support that personal responsibility. As the new Commission on Substance Abuse Prevention gets under way, we will continue to monitor, review and act as needed.

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.

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