Important Message to Students from President Linwood Rose

From: Public Affairs

August 18, 2010

Dear new and returning students,

I hope your summer has been both relaxing and meaningful. We look forward to welcoming you to JMU and to the new academic year!

While our mission is to prepare you to be educated and enlightened citizens, our primary concern is always your personal health and safety. Last spring semester ended with some lingering issues surrounding negative alcohol-related events off campus. As your President and on behalf of the university community, I remain very concerned about the abuse and underage use of alcohol by some of our students. Such behavior results in negative consequences for the individual and it also threatens the personal health, safety and community respect of the entire student body. The purpose of this letter is to notify you of actions that we will be taking to change the negative alcohol culture that has been associated with James Madison University specifically, and higher education generally.

Regularly, we survey students through our continuing student survey to learn about alcohol-related experiences and attitudes. Three of the recent responses are particularly symbolic of the problem with alcohol that we face. In commenting on Consequences of Using Alcohol, 44 percent of JMU students reported that alcohol caused them to behave in ways they later regretted. Twenty-eight percent said their alcohol-induced behavior left them feeling guilty. Further, 48 percent of students reported that their alcohol consumption resulted in them not remembering a period of time. During orientation for new students this summer, approximately 70 percent of the incoming freshmen indicated that they had used alcohol in the past month. These facts are clear evidence of the challenge before us and we want to reverse these trends. It is time to change our culture.

In recent years we have increased our efforts to address the alcohol issue, including the creation of an Office of Substance Abuse Prevention, which has been proactive and innovative in its approach. You may go to http://www.jmu.edu/yourcall to see the comprehensive strategies that are being used.

Unfortunately, our efforts have not been enough. All one has to do is to look at the Springfest videos or travel through off-campus apartment complexes on a "party" weekend to see the negative results. We also have an unseen problem. We have a number of students who seek help from the Counseling Center or Health Center because of alcohol abuse-related issues. Finally, we are attracting uninvited and unwelcome visitors to the University and Harrisonburg.

We are going to change this culture. JMU will not be defined by a negative alcohol culture, nor will we allow it to be perpetuated. However, we cannot turn things around without your help.

The changes listed below will be implemented this Fall to begin to transform the JMU alcohol culture. This list is the result of numerous conversations with students, faculty, staff, parents and community members. While our goal is to improve the culture of our entire community, change begins with the daily decisions that you will make as an individual. The positive impact that Madison makes in communities across the country starts here in the Harrisonburg community. Therefore, I ask you to lead a life that reflects our institutional values: Integrity, Mutual Respect and Excellence.

Sincerely,

Linwood H. Rose
President

Transforming the JMU Alcohol Culture:
Pursuing Excellence, Integrity and Mutual Respect


Goals

Change the negative alcohol culture at JMU.

Help students with alcohol issues receive the appropriate assistance they need.

Educate students to help them make responsible decisions.

Decrease the abuse of alcohol by JMU students.

Reduce the illegal alcohol-related behavior of JMU students and its harmful impact on the community.

Demonstrate active citizenship by fostering student respect for our neighbors in the Harrisonburg/Rockingham community.

Enforcement

Additional police officers will be dedicated to increase enforcement of underage drinking and public intoxication laws on-and off-campus.

Police will be present and intervene early on traditional party weekends and when notified of potential gatherings of people drinking outdoors at any other time.

ABC agents will enforce illegal "host" behavior off campus (i.e. serving underage people).

Apartment complex managers/owners have been asked not to permit illegal outdoor parties of any size, and to involve police when necessary.

The University will review the current "three strikes policy." In addition, students with alcohol violations may be subject to harsher sanctions after the first or second offense, especially if associated with actions such as supplying alcohol to minors, DUI or violence. Sanctions for additional violations will be progressively more severe, up to and including suspension.

Parent/Guardian Involvement

Parents/Guardians will be notified after a student's first alcohol violation, unlike in previous years where parents/guardians were notified after a second alcohol violation.

Parents/Guardians will be sent a postcard one to two weeks prior to their student's 21st birthday, encouraging parents/guardians to talk with their son or daughter about having a healthy celebration.

Education and Programming

The University will conduct an aggressive "Know Your Guests" Campaign to foster safe gatherings off campus.

The University will offer new weekend activities such as the "Service for a Weekend" program, which uses the Alternative Spring Break Model to provide positive alternatives to partying.

The University will work with fraternities and sororities to alter the unsanctioned Spring Alumni Weekend gathering and will put measures in place to hold groups accountable for their guests.

The University will allocate innovation grant dollars to fund projects that target alcohol abuse reduction efforts.

The University will partner with students, faculty and staff to create and implement new initiatives to change the alcohol culture at JMU.

The University will educate students about the safe and responsible use of social media.