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New JMU policies aimed at changing 'negative alcohol culture'

Jenna Johnson

James Madison University students received a text message Wednesday, telling them to check their e-mail inbox. There they found a lengthy letter from JMU President Linwood H. Rose detailing steps the university is taking "to change the negative alcohol culture that has been associated with James Madison University," according to The Breeze.

Among the plans, local and campus police will increase their patrols on and off campus, undercover alcohol regulators will show up at parties to make sure kegs are properly registered and hosts aren't serving minors, and parents will be notified after a student's first alcohol violation. (Virginia Tech implemented a similar rule last academic year.)

The Virginia university made national news in the spring when an annual block party in a popular student neighborhood got out of control. Party goers threw beer and liquor bottles, started fights and broke windows. Local police agencies responded in riot gear, spraying tear gas and pelleting the crowd with rubber projectiles.

A recent university survey found that 48 percent of students reported that they had blacked out while drinking, according to Rose's letter. And during new student orientation this summer, 70 percent of incoming freshmen indicated that they had used alcohol in the past month.

"We are going to change this culture. JMU will not be defined by a negative alcohol culture, nor will we allow it to be perpetuated," Rose wrote.

Here are some of the other culture-changing initiatives students can look forward to this fall:

* Apartment complex managers and owners were told not to permit illegal outdoor parties of any size and to involve police if parties get out of control.

* The university is reviewing its "three strikes policy," and students may face harsher punishments for alcohol-related infractions.

* Parents will be more involved. In addition to being notified of each and every alcohol violation, parents will also receive a postcard two weeks before their child's 21st birthday that will include tips for talking with their student about having a "healthy celebration."

* The university also is launching aggressive education campaigns for students on how to throw safe parties. The university also will provide students with alternative weekend activities, like service projects.

* Fraternities and sororities will have to make changes to their unsanctioned Spring Alumni Weekend gathering, and they will be held more accountable for their guests.

You can read more about the changes in the JMU student newspaper, The Breeze. The Richmond Times-Dispatch also wrote a story about the changes.

By Jenna Johnson  |  August 20, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Night Life  | Tags: James Madison  
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