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Washington State University

Office of the PResident

Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 8/25/08

Making the Right Choices

A vibrant university consists of faculty, students, staff, alumni, parents, community members — the list goes on as do the expectations to meet their personal, social, and educational needs.  Especially on a residential campus, education doesn’t just happen in classrooms and laboratories. Our students — many of them living on their own for the first time — make choices every day. As a university, as a society, we have an overriding interest in providing them with the information they need to make the right ones.

Some of those choices inevitably concern the use of alcohol. Washington State University has long maintained an active and effective effort, coordinated through our Alcohol and Drug Counseling, Assessment, and Prevention Services program, to provide the education and support that our students might need.

Washington State University will always take a strong stance against the abuse and irresponsible use and consumption of alcohol.  Recently, questions have been raised about our current alcohol policy.  In fact, the new policy is not significantly different from the old policy, which permitted serving alcohol on campus with the appropriate liquor license.  The new policy permits the same; however, a permanent liquor license will be held in the new restaurant in the CUB and in the club house of the Palouse Ridge Golf Club.  It is important to note that alcohol will only be served with meals and an open bar will not be in the CUB restaurant.

Alcohol availability is a fact of life in our society. There are bars near campus and elsewhere in the community where students, faculty and staff of legal age can have a drink. Responsible restaurant and bar owners are diligent about making sure that alcohol is sold only to those 21 and older and that patrons are not overserved.   These requirements will be rigorously enforced at Washington State University.

I am far more concerned about the sort of unregulated and unsupervised abuse of alcohol by underage students that is too frequently a part of private gatherings around our campus and on campuses nationwide.  Unfortunately, some young people see binge drinking as a rite of passage.  This is not just a college problem; patterns of alcohol abuse often are formed in high school or junior high. Education is a big part of the solution; so is counseling; so is enforcement when laws are violated. Our nation tried Prohibition once, and found it ineffective.

In the past week, college presidents from about 100 of the nation's universities called on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18. They maintain that current laws, by making alcohol “forbidden fruit,” encourage underage binge drinking. While I do not agree with the group’s desire to lower the drinking age, I applaud these presidents for sparking a discussion about how we can seek more effective solutions to the challenges associated with alcohol use and abuse.

In our society, we are faced with a world of choices. For some people 21 and over, deciding whether to have a drink with a dinner or after a round of golf is simply a part of life. Alcohol can be abused; it can be used responsibly. I assure everyone who is concerned about this issue that WSU continues to be committed to providing the tools necessary to make responsible choices.