Alcohol Policy Revised


Several revisions to Duke’s Alcohol Policy have taken effect with the start of the school year, including an amendment that states the university may notify the parents of students under the age of twenty-one when their student’s health or safety has been at risk.

At the end of August, Larry Moneta, the new vice president for student affairs, sent a letter to the leaders of about 150 student organizations on campus, reminding them that the revisions had been enacted and enlisting their support in educating the university community.

In his letter, Moneta says it was clear that students “want a campus that is safe, responsible, and enjoyable, and free of the strewn trash, excessive noise, broken glass, and vomit in restrooms that have resulted from parties in the past.” Moneta also stressed that Student Affairs would continue to concentrate on reducing the frequency of dangerous drinking that sent fifty-seven students to Duke Hospital’s emergency room last year. Many of those students had toxic levels of alcohol in their bloodstream, the letter says.

The purpose underlying the notification is not to “tell on” students to their parents, but instead to involve parents in assisting their children, says Kacie Wallace ’89, associate dean for judicial affairs. “Parental notification is not a sanction. We’re involving parents in their students’ lives and asking for their support.”

For years, the alcohol policy has contained a section mandating that letters be sent to the parents of first-year students who commit a second policy violation. Beginning this fall, parental notification could be applicable to any student under twenty-one.

Parental notification will be neither automatic nor routine, Wallace says. While Student Affairs deans have more discretion under the policy revisions when it comes to notifying parents, the criteria for notification essentially will remain the same. Parents may be notified following extreme cases of intoxication, particularly overdoses, when repeat offenses occur, and when it is evident that consumption is adversely affecting schoolwork, she says. In most instances, students will be encouraged to notify their parents themselves. In other, more acute cases, Student Affairs deans will contact parents.

Another important change in the revised policy is the increased clarity provided to residential-life staff (resident advisers and area coordinators), who in the past have struggled to understand whether they were expected to be primarily peer mentors or enforcers of policy.

Wallace says the residential-life staff is asked to intervene whenever students are intoxicated, with the primary goal being to ensure their health and safety. Starting this year, resident advisers and area coordinators are being asked specifically to “observe, comment, and document” alcohol-related incidents to the best of their ability.

In training this August, it was made clear that the residential-life staff will simply submit their observations to Student Affairs deans, who determine what response is warranted. Compared with the previous policy, the distinctions may appear subtle, Wallace says, but Student Affairs administrators are confident the shift in emphasis will help the residential-life staff members better understand their role and responsibilities.

Another change in Student Affairs’ approach this year involves the inclusion of a substance-abuse specialist in decisions concerning alcohol policy violations. Jeff Kulley, coordinator of alcohol and substance-abuse services, was hired last spring by Counseling and Psychological Services. Working with Student Affairs deans, he will help determine whether students involved in incidents should receive assessment, treatment, substance-abuse education, judicial sanctioning, community restitution requirements, or some combination of these consequences.

The policy revisions stem from recommendations by the Alcohol Policy Review Committee, charged last fall by Jim Clack, interim vice president for student affairs, to re-examine the university’s alcohol policy in light of changes that have occurred in recent years regarding campus culture and federal law. The revisions have been endorsed by Moneta, who was named vice president for student affairs this past summer.

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