Parent & Family Information | Alcohol & Drugs

Welcome to the Pacific University family!

We are excited about the opportunity to partner with you as we share the responsibility of educating and caring for your child.We would like to share about Pacific’s efforts to educate students about alcohol policies and expectations, including our focus on personal and community responsibility. We look forward to partnering with you to optimize the health and safety of your student. We encourage you to talk to them early and often about drinking and other important topics such as consensual sex, how to address issues of stalking, and intimate partner violence. Students arrive at Pacific with existing values and expectations related to these topics, many of which are shaped by your past interactions with them. Some students will choose not to engage in alcohol use, dating, or sexual encounters. However, young adults attending college will be influenced by exposure to others, and they may no longer have daily contact with family members. It is important to continue communication with your child throughout their early adulthood regarding these topics and to prepare students for a new environment where many diverse people gather and live together. If you have not begun the conversations already, we encourage you to start today.

Access to Alcohol

The legal drinking age in Oregon is 21. However, finding access to alcohol may be easier while at college than it may have been in high school. We at Pacific are involved with a county-wide initiative to reduce underage high risk drinking, and fortunately the data suggests that the majority of Pacific students drink moderately or not at all. However, every year a small number of undergraduates are involved in high-risk or chronic drinking incidents. First year students are particularly at risk. We believe this is likely because some first year students have had very limited experience with alcohol and are unprepared for the freedoms of college.

Research shows that by having a frank, face-to-face conversation with your student, you can have a positive effect on your student’s approach to alcohol once they arrive.

To help with that conversation, we want you to know a few things about Pacific’s alcohol programs and policies:

  • Students are expected to abide by university policies and Oregon laws. These can be found in the Student Code of Conduct.
  • Pacific has a Substance Use and Harm Reduction Working Group that oversees policy and education on campus.  This interdisciplinary group is made up of staff, faculty, and students.  They work to keep education and harm reduction efforts up-to-date at Pacific while striving to deploy public health best practices in prevention efforts.
  • 24/7 support and oversight is available in the residence halls from student residence assistants (RAs), as well as professional live-in residence Area Coordinators. Pacific RA training includes information around alcohol misuse/abuse focused on student safety.
  • The Student Counseling Center offers free professional counseling.  The SCC is also available to consult with students who have concerns about friends or family members. 
  • If a student violates the alcohol policy or other conduct policies while under the influence of alcohol, they may be sanctioned to participate in a BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students) program provided by the Counseling Center. This intervention is based on principles of Motivational Interviewing and has been demonstrated to be an effective tool to reduce problematic patterns of drinking and to identify those few students who may be developing a significant problem with alcohol.

Potential Negative Impacts of Drinking

We encourage you to discuss the potential negative impacts of drinking with your student. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offers advice for parents.

Here are three specific points to emphasize:

  1. Drinking hard liquor in the form of multiple shots (such as during drinking games), or drinking in such a way as to quickly experience intoxication is dangerous and can lead to alcohol poisoning and death. While “scare tactics” are useless to change drinking behaviors, this is an area where we still believe it is useful for students to be informed so that they will make sound choices.
  2. Drinking can result in legal citations or arrest. Pacific students are not immune from prosecution. The types of violations they may be cited for include: being a minor in possession of alcohol, being intoxicated in public (this can involve being arrested and transported to jail), and possession of false identification. These citations or arrests may later appear on background checks for employment and graduate school applications. 
  3. Incidents involving unwanted sexual encounters, sexual misconduct, sexual assault and other violations of campus policies often involve alcohol use. Alcohol is never an excuse for engaging in behaviors that violate our community norms. More information on Pacific policies can be found on the Student Conduct page.

We believe firmly that if you talk directly with your student about drinking before they come to Pacific, you can help us in creating a campus culture of personal responsibility and sound decision-making.

Keep Talking

But don’t stop there. Continue the conversation. When checking in about classes and how they like the food, please remember to ask:

“What did you do last night?”

“What fun things are you finding to do?”

“Have you found an activity/group you enjoy?” and

“Tell me about your friends.”

The answers may help reveal if your child is feeling isolated and, thus, vulnerable. In our experience, parents are best able to detect if something is amiss. Thank you for your partnership in this effort.