WSU Students Spearhead Efforts to Curb Alcohol Abuse

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University students are taking the lead role in
efforts to change the alcohol culture on campus. They are working with the university, local
police and the community as they make plans for end-of-school-year activities at WSU.
In the spring of 1998 a street party, involving the abuse of alcohol, turned violent at WSU.
The ensuing riot caused numerous injuries and damage to property. Arrests were made,
offenders were prosecuted and other disciplinary actions were taken.
Conduct hearings were held for 43 students. Three students were expelled and six others
were suspended. Three Greek fraternities were put on disciplinary probation for a year,
collectively fined $2500 and assigned 1,000 hours of community service. One fraternity has
subsequently failed to meet the terms of its probation and is no longer recognized by the
Similar incidents have occurred at campuses around the country, and it is clear that student
drinking is a nationwide problem.
ASWSU President Steve Wymer says, “Students have recognized that there have been
problems in the past. We also realize that the way to solve these problems is to work within the
system instead of yelling and throwing things.” Wymer says he believes that students want to
demonstrate that they are responsible young adults by their actions this spring.
WSU has encouraged students to address this issue. A number of educational and
preventative actions are now underway. According to Assistant Dean of Students Cindy Empey,
the students have been involved continuously and are dealing with the issue directly. “They are
the ones making a difference in how we are responding to what happened last year,” says
A committee of WSU student leaders, administrators, city and campus police, living group
coordinators and others are meeting regularly to share information and to seek ways to create a
climate that reduces the potential for alcohol-related problems.
Some of the measures that are already underway on and off campus include:
— Student leaders from Greek organizations are planning a street carnival for the weekend of May
1. This event will be an alternative to traditional drinking parties. There will be booths, games,
music and other activities. Some elements include a 3-on-3-basketball tournament, a barbecue
and face painting for area-children. Carnival attendees will also receive free admission to a WSU
baseball game and track meet being held the same day.
— The Pullman Police Department has instituted a beat cop system that allows officers to become
familiar with a given area and its residents. Beat officers can intervene before problems develop.
The WSU Police Department plans to join the beat system this fall.
— Law enforcement will aggressively prosecute violent offenders.
— The Washington State Liquor Control Board is meeting with leaders of living groups, offering
assistance with alcohol abuse prevention.
— The WSU Greek Affairs office is sending out letters advising houses about legal
consequences of keg parties.
— WSU student residence hall staffers are helping disseminate information to students. Building
access restrictions are being instituted during weekends and other likely “party” times.
Washington State University received a $283,000, two-year grant from the U.S. Department
of Education to support a pilot program to reduce student alcohol abuse. The program, “Project
Culture Change,” has as its main goal correcting misperceptions of alcohol and other drug use
norms among students.
Some WSU living groups have already canceled traditional events that have resulted in past
problems. Empey says student groups have been encouraged to hold more intimate events.
“Smaller events are easier for the organizations to control. There are fewer outside people and
there is less of a tendency for things to get out of hand,” says Empey.
WSU students have also worked on a variety of committees designed to strengthen
campus-community relations, analyze substance abuse problems and the continuing relationship
of fraternal organizations to the university.