JMU Looks to Change Alcohol Culture on Campus

By: McKinsey Harris Email
By: McKinsey Harris Email

A new policy for the James Madison University community targets its approach to the alcohol culture.

University leaders held a meeting Wednesday to discuss the new policy, goals and actions.

JMU students received an e-mail just Wednesday morning from JMU President Dr. Linwood Rose outlining this new policy.

They've been keeping it in the forefront of everyone's minds beginning this summer, and say this will continue throughout the year.

Tear gas, flying beer bottles and assaults on officers were all seen at JMU's Springfest this past April, which is something of which Rose says he and other university leaders aren't proud.

"But we really want to go much beyond one weekend or even a series of events and look at alcohol culture in general and try to change that," says Rose.

Dr. Mark Warner, who works with JMU's student affairs, says they decided they needed to add to their comprehensive plan.

"We already have been working for the last ten years on how do we address the alcohol cultural issue? And it's a tough one, and we decided that what we're doing, we've got to add something to it," says Warner.

It's a plan that sets goals and actions.

The goals focus around decreasing the negative alcohol culture at the university and decreasing alcohol abuse, while increasing the relationship with the community.

In so far as actions, the university hopes to discourage alcohol abuse by increasing law enforcement and state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control presence both on and off campus.

The university also wants to get parents more involved, which it's doing by notifying parents about alcohol violations starting with the first offense, as opposed to the second offense.

University officials are also working on a "Know Your Guests" campaign, as well as safe and responsible use of social media, to help crack down on open door parties, where unwanted guests may attend and cause trouble.

This fall, the university will be reviewing its "three strikes policy" when it comes to alcohol violations to see what changes may be necessary.

Officials hope these goals and actions, along with many others, will make a change, but they say it'll take time to change a culture.

"In the end it's going to all come down to does behavior change? And that's going to be up to our students, and so we need their help," says Rose.

Warner says the JMU Presidential Leadership Academy, which was a group of 24 of the school's organization presidents, met in May to discuss the issue and already has a program called "Respect Madison" starting in September.


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