Alcohol policy violates federal regulations, Task Force finds

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The current alcohol policy violates federal regulations and contradicts itself, making its enforcement arbitrary, the Tulane Alcohol Task Force found when reviewing the university policy. The Task Force began its review in 2012 and discovered the policy had not been reviewed in an unknown number of years.

The University Senate introduced a proposed alcohol policy on Monday designed to follow Tulane’s current regulations and practices. Scott Tims, assistant vice president for campus health, and Vice President of Student Affairs Dusty Porter introduced the proposal as a first reading to the senate.

“The current policy is virtually incoherent,” Tims said. “This makes it very hard for people to know what is right and wrong and [what is being enforced].” 

The Task Force wrote the proposal in an effort to decongest the current alcohol policy and align it with federal regulations. Tulane’s current policy is not compliant with Part 86 of the Education Department General Administrative Regulations and the Institution of Higher Education’s drug policies.

According to the U.S. Government Publishing Office’s website, Part 86 of EDGAR requires that the alcohol and drug policy are annually distributed to all faculty and students in writing. It also requires that standards of conduct clearly prohibit the use of underage drinking or drug abuse and that policies include descriptions of the health risks associated with illegal drug and alcohol use, descriptions of counseling, treatment, rehabilitation or re-entry programs available, and a clear statement that the IHE would impose disciplinary sanctions on individuals who violated these polices.

EDGAR also requires that Tulane review its policy every two years, and Tims said the Task Force could not find any prior review of the alcohol policy. In addition, the current policy does not include clear enforcement, as it lists multiple protocols for alcohol-related incidents. These contradictions contribute to an overall failure to adhere to portions of Part 86 of EDGAR.

A second reading of the proposal is scheduled for the next Senate meeting on April 13.

The proposal does not contain any significant changes to current alcohol-related practices, as these practices follow regulations, but it will change the language of the policy to match both the law and these practices.

Tims said the policy should be easier for students to understand. The current policy is more than 20 pages, and the proposal has been shortened to 12 pages, excluding the appendices.

One contradiction the current policy presents is authorization for alcohol at graduate versus undergraduate events.

“[The task force] made it so that graduate students and undergraduate students were treated differently and outlined protocol type things, making it an easier document to read,” Tims said. “I don’t think, however, that there is anything in this document that is different from how we currently [enforce the policy].”

The changes make it easier for graduate students to hold events that may include alcohol.

“With undergraduate students we have more safety in place to prevent underage drinking, which often leads to high-risk drinking,” Tims said. “If you are a graduate student organization, typically everyone is going to be over 21. If undergrads and graduates want to do have a joint event, however, undergraduate rules apply [in the proposed policy].”

Additionally, the proposal officially includes alcohol regulations specifically for use during tailgating. The policies Tulane enforced during the 2014-15 football season were enforced outside of the current alcohol policy.

Tims said the tailgating policy was a huge success this year and that it would serve as the model for other large campus events such as Crawfest.

The tailgating policy restricts underage drinking, leaving groups and organizations responsible for not serving alcohol to those under age. It also prohibits drinking games and restricts drinking to those locations defined in the Tulane Fan Guide. 

Tims said that he believes this structure will prove to be effective in the future.

“[The large event policy] had a structure and created drinking opportunities and rules about where you could and could not drink,” Tims said. “There won’t be a super strict environment of TUPD [asking for identification] to see if students are of age, but culturally we are creating a safe space for students if they choose to drink.”

Finally, the proposal recommends sub-committees to annually review policies regarding alcohol and drugs, event registration and medical amnesty, the last of which needs particular clarification. Thus far officials have had to pick and choose which parts of the policy to follow. The proposal makes these choices clear.

Morgan Wittenberg, undergraduate student government president and a member of the Task Force, said the proposal would help prevent dangerous alcohol incidents on Tulane’s campus.

“As students and as elected officials we owe it to ourselves to have these policies in place in case there ever is a moment of need,” Wittenberg said. “We need to be intentional about creating a community with care and concern.”

Wittenberg said she thought the proposal was well-received during its first reading.

“I am confident that in this first draft and its final iterations the policy will become something we can all get behind, agree to and [as a result,] feel a little bit better about alcohol [use on campus],” Wittenberg said.