Toasting the class of 2004

Last February a 20-year-old D.C. area university student died in an alcohol-related incident. His passing heightened awareness among Washington’s college students of the tragic effects of excessive alcohol consumption.

Last year more than half of all GW disciplinary cases were related to alcohol abuse. On one occasion, federal agents were compelled to enter Thurston Hall to close a fake I.D. mill and arrest the perpetrators. Between the start of the semester and Labor Day, eight GW freshmen required treatment at the emergency unit of GW Hospital because of excessive alcohol consumption.

As we begin the 2000-01 academic year, I want to be sure that the national epidemic of alcohol abuse receives the attention it deserves. The Capital Alcohol Reduction Effort (CARE) and a conference scheduled for October on the American Campus and Alcohol should help to raise consciousness about this matter in the local undergraduate community. College and university officials from across the country have been invited to meet and to assist in developing strategies to address the college binge drinking problem. I have pledged GW support to the American Campus and Alcohol Conference.

I am a university president. I am also the father of two university-age sons. In both capacities I am deeply concerned about the issue of alcohol abuse on America’s university campuses. GW has made great efforts to deal with this matter. For example, the Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education (CADE) located in Thurston Hall offers alcohol and drug education programs, makes referrals to the University Counseling Center and Student Health Service and trains peer educators on substance abuse. To offer an alternative to alcohol-filled evenings, the Dean of Students office and the Student Activities Center created the Triple Play Program, a new initiative that makes funds available to student organizations that plan alcohol-free activities. And to encourage family participation in the fight against alcohol and drug abuse, GW acts in accordance with the 1998 Higher Education Amendments Act by contacting the parents of students who lose their campus housing as a result of drug offenses, a change in policy welcomed by parents.

Despite these efforts, we are still not satisfied. We want to be certain we have taken every reasonable precaution against an alcohol or drug related tragedy. University life provides many freedoms – students have no curfews and largely make their own decisions about their lives. Unhappily, some students in past years made poor choices. I challenge the Class of 2004 to be different. GW will sponsor many events and activities during Welcome Week and the upcoming semester designed to provide alternatives to alcohol consumption. Take advantage of these opportunities. Make responsible decisions about alcohol. Make informed choices. Anticipate the consequences of your behavior. Avoid doing harm to yourself and others.

I am proud of the students I serve. I want you to enjoy GW, and I want to be able to personally congratulate you at Commencement.
-The writer is president and professor of public administration.

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