By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
When ACU alumna Dewby Ray (’50) first read the headline reporting the university’s plans to change its alcohol policy, she couldn’t believe it.
At first, she was overcome by shock, but after the 79-year-old, who has spent the majority of her life attending, working for or living near ACU, read deeper, she was bothered but understood why the university was changing its policy.
“I don’t know that I necessarily agree with it, but I don’t disagree with the idea that you can’t punish them if they live off campus,” Ray said.
Ray was glad that the university’s new policy is adamant about prohibiting drinking on campus, and she said experiences with alcohol abuse in her family taught her the dangers of one drink.
“I’m very opposed to drinking in general because you never know who’s going to be an alcoholic once they start drinking,” Ray said. “I realize the drunkenness is what they’re after, but the drinking part doesn’t give a very good picture.”
When the news broke that ACU was rewriting its alcohol policy to allow undergraduate and graduate students 21 and older to drink off campus, Dr. Royce Money, president of the university, sent out an e-mail to the ACU Community and local media explaining the change and shunning the inconsistencies of “sensationalized” media coverage of the decision.
“This is one of those issues where headlines mean everything,” said Dr. Jean Noel Thompson, vice president for Student Life and dean of students.
Money wrote that the reason for the change was not to condone drinking but to amend a policy that was “not enforceable and unrealistic in its scope.” He defended the university’s decision, writing that it was crafting a policy that will “teach students how to make wise choices regarding alcohol throughout their lifetimes; and tighten enforcement against the consumption
of alcohol, especially during the impressionable time of late adolescence.”
Thompson and a campus committee are refining the specific policy language. He said his office has been fielding numerous calls and e-mails from supportive and angry alumni, and he understands why some are concerned with the university’s decision.
“Without seeing the fine print it is very easy for this to be misinterpreted and misunderstood,” Thompson said.
Thompson explained that once the new policy is applied, the university plans to have open dialogue about alcohol abuse and stricter punishments for underage drinking without punishing innocent students of age who drink responsibly.
Alumnus Steve Holt (’04) sees the change as a positive step away from a policy that stuck a social stigma to an ACU student that drinks responsibly.
“There was sort of a don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy,” Holt said of his time on campus. “I think what this does is it takes the monkey off the back of people who enjoy alcohol and enjoy a nice beer and a glass of wine in moderation.”
But some older alumni doubt the reasoning behind a Christian campus condoning any type of drinking. Alumna Margie Leverett (’49) agreed that stricter enforcement was needed, but does not believe the answer is allowing students of age to drink off campus.
“For students above 21 that’s their business, but I don’t think ACU needs to tell them they can drink,” Leverett said.
ACU students asked about the policy see both sides of the argument, did not see the change coming and admit that denying alcohol abuse exists among students is foolish.
“The kids who want to drink are already drinking; this isn’t going to change that at all,” said Daniel Burgner, sophomore political science major from Yorbalinda, Calif.
Sarah Pulis, junior political science major from Longview, said the alcohol debate within the Church of Christ could cause separation on campus, and it would have been better to maintain the old policy so that ACU could stay unified.
“It seems like its asking for trouble,” Pulis said. “I think that people already drink, I don’t know that condoning it is going to make a positive difference.”
But regardless of which position alumni or students take on the new policy, Thompson said this controversy, like others in the past, might quiet with time.
“Wait it out and ask the right questions, before you pass judgment on us,” Thompson said.