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 write this letter to let you know 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 son or daughter. We encourage you to talk to them early and often about drinking along with 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 will 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.

Passive Bystander vs. Engaged Community Members

Just as we want to partner with you to optimize the health and safety of your child, we will be asking all students to become engaged community members and to expect proactive and positive community norms. Through a number of programs during Orientation and throughout the school year, various Student Life offices will provide a variety of skill sets for students to employ that will help them to:

  • Know if they are observing something amiss
  • Consider what could happen if they do or do not respond
  • Determine whether they are the best person to respond and if not how to engage other students or professionals to help
  • Assess the potential risks of responding, and whether to act now or at a later time

We know that if we all actively engage in the health of our community, we will reduce the frequency of harmful incidents and thereby optimize the ability for our students to focus on their education, which is their primary reason for attending Pacific. Students should be able to identify direct and indirect ways to intervene, and we will provide skills that will work for introverted or shy students as well as those who are naturally assertive. Some examples of immediate actions include: naming the concern, using humor as a distraction, using body language to signal disapproval, call resources for help, publicly support a distressed person, encourage dialogue, or interrupt the behavior. Actions a student might take after the fact include: talking directly and privately to their friend of concern, consulting with professionals, or making an official report. 

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:

  • Before they arrive on campus, all students will be required to complete Alcohol Wise, an online alcohol education course that stresses individual and collective responsibility. Since we know that alcohol is often present when unwanted sexual experiences occur, all students will also complete online education regarding Consent and Respect. These are required educational programs and student registration for the following semester will be blocked if not completed. We are committed to ensuring that every student recognizes our community standards and expectations to maximize the health and safety of all.
  • Students are expected to abide by university policies and Oregon laws. These can be found at XXXXXXXX
  • Pacific has a Campus Wellness Program and an Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force that oversee policy and education. In addition to educational programs, Campus Wellness professional staff and peer wellness educators identify and provide alcohol-free social programming designed to ensure that no student feels isolated by a personal decision to abstain from alcohol.
  • 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 the issue of alcohol abuse focused on student safety.
  • The Student Counseling Center offers professional counseling. Campus Wellness also provides individual consultations to assist students to explore their choices with alcohol. Both offices are 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. If you have any questions or would like additional resources, please contact the Dean of Students Office at 503-352-2254.