Campus Alcohol Policy Up for Review

Dean of Students Lesley Villarose

Dean of Students Lesley Villarose

Jackson Prebe, Staff Writer

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Across the United States, at nearly any college campus you can find, a few common themes can be found —  rising tuition, increasingly stressed young adults, and on the right days of the week, the consumption of alcohol. For students at Averett, the status of alcohol has been set in stone as long as anyone can remember. Consumption of alcohol on campus is forbidden, regardless of age. However, for those who have concerns about the current alcohol policy, Dean of Students Lesley Villarose, has some very promising information regarding the future of this policy.

In regards to Averett’s current policy, Villarose explains “We are a dry campus, which means regardless of if you’re 21 or not, there’s no drinking on campus. It does allow for exceptions to be made by the president of the university, for instance, tailgating at home football games.”

That exception, made by Dr. Tiffany Franks, President of Averett, has been in place for “about five years, with the addition of the stadium.”

This policy, however, is currently up for serious consideration. After having the topic raised for debate multiple times, primarily by Averett’s SGA, the administration has created an “Alcohol and Other Drugs Task Force.” 

“This task force is going to be looking at policies about alcohol and tobacco, to research the best practices as well as providing education and awareness,” Villarose said. “They are going to look at other schools that have gone from dry to wet, and work together to create a proposal that will go up to be approved.”

It is very important for the administration to understand the process of making this transition. As Dean Villarose explains, they are currently not sure how best to implement the policy.

“Do you go into phases? Do you only say ‘this particular residence hall is wet?’ We’re also going to be doing a health assessment with the National College Health Assessment, and this is going to be able to give us information about drinking habits for students, but also a wide variety of information.”

All of this information and research is to be compiled into a proposal, which will then make a journey through multiple levels before being finally approved and enacted. It will be presented first to the “student life committee,” a faculty committee which deals with any policy matters related to student life at Averett, and “if they approve it, it goes to the president. If the president approves it, she will make the recommendation to go forth to the Board of Trustees. They will have the ultimate authority in deciding.” 

The most important takeaway from this story, however, is that all of this research, consideration, and progress has not been born of indifference and inaction. Villarose assured that the biggest factor in making these steps toward Averett becoming a wet campus is the voices of students, who made their opinions, and the opinions of their peers, known to the administration. This, coupled with similar messages coming from faculty members as well, has led Averett to strongly consider this change in policy.

Still, the proposal has a ways to go. The alcohol and drug task force still has research to do, and the proposal still has to make it to the Board of Trustees. Additionally, the community will be informed about the decision, to ensure there are no questions about the welfare of students, and the safety of the community around Averett. 

“People shouldn’t be scared about the process of saying ‘okay, we’re dry but we’re going to change to wet.’ That doesn’t mean it’s going to be this open free for all, it just means that we’re going to be able to provide students that are 21 the ability to drink responsibly,” Villarose said.

With all this in mind, Dean Villarose still wants the focus to be not on the alcohol, but rather on the education and awareness the administration intends to raise, which will allow students to drink with the knowledge of how to do so in a safe, appropriate way. 

“When we start talking about binge drinking, and understanding why is it that you drink, and what is it that you drink? Do you understand that alcohol affects people differently in different ways? There are some really high risk behaviors alcohol can lead to if abused. So our emphasis is to work with our students to help them understand ways you can drink alcohol and be responsible with your classmates.”

If Averett makes this change, it will no longer be within the ⅓ of schools in the US which ban alcohol on campus. While this question has undoubtedly been raised many times before, it appears as though the university is currently as close as it has ever been to making this change in policy. And, it is much closer than you think. 

The administration, and task force assigned to gather research and create a proposal, would like to get the proposal in the hands of the Board of Trustees by the Spring Semester. So long as the research is done and the information is compiled effectively, Villarose is confident in the task force’s ability to meet that goal.

For more details on these efforts, or just for general questions on the matter, Villarose encourages you to send her an email, and let her know of any questions or concerns on the matter.