Chancellor's Recent Speeches

CSU Alcohol Advisory Councils
2002 Education Conference
Los Angeles, CA

Thank you very much for that introduction, Terry (Dr. Terry Piper, Vice President for Student Affairs, CSUN).

I want to start by thanking you all for being here for the CSU's first systemwide alcohol policy conference and for focusing on this important task.

What we are doing here today is of national significance. People are watching our university to see what we are doing and how we will make it work.

I realized this as soon as we first approved our systemwide alcohol policy because our phones started ringing off the hook. We received calls from all around the country – from other universities, from alcohol prevention organizations, and from members of the media. When NBC Nightly News showed up at my door, I knew we had really struck a nerve.

And campus alcohol abuse continues to be in the news.

A new study released this week by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that drinking by U.S. college students contributes to 1,400 deaths, half a million injuries, and 70,000 sexual assaults each year. NBC News ran another story on that study this week, which means that they are continuing to follow this story.

When reporters ask me why we are taking on this issue, I tell them that this is not just a California State University problem. This is a national higher education problem.

But I know we have some critics out there. Some people say, "You can't stop students from abusing alcohol. It's a part of college life that's never going to change. So you may as well not even try."

To that kind of thinking, I say, "You're all wrong."

We already know that the alternative – doing nothing – can have tragic consequences. This is a war against a disease – because that is what alcohol abuse is, a disease.

I believe that if we – chancellors, presidents, faculty, staff, students, and community members – make the prevention of alcohol abuse a priority, we can make a difference.

I believe that if we help students understand what is safe and reasonable, we can prevent more tragedies from occurring on our campuses.

And if we save the life of just one student, we will be successful.

Formation of CSU Policy

Just to give you a little background about my experience, I came from the State University System of Florida, where football, parties, and drinking went hand in hand.

When I came to the CSU system, I didn't think that alcohol would be as big a problem as it was in Florida. Our 23 campuses have more commuter students and less football.

But the problem is every bit as big in California as it was in Florida. It may be a little more hidden, but it's still there.

In fall 2000, the CSU experienced a tragic loss when one of our students died from alcohol poisoning. Shortly after, two students wound up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning.

At the system level, we thought long and hard about what we needed to do. We decided that we needed to attack this problem.

Our decision was guided by our belief that our university system needs to take responsibility for building a safe learning environment for our students.

So we formed a systemwide alcohol policy committee of presidents, vice presidents, students, faculty, staff and alumni. It was chaired by CSU Fresno President John Welty, who did a great job.

We brought in experts from around the country who told us about implementing responsible alcohol abuse prevention policies.

Then the committee did outstanding work in drawing up a plan that brings together the whole campus community.

And then all of you, especially our vice presidents for student affairs, took the lead on implementing this plan by establishing advisory councils, reviewing current campus policies, and evaluating the need for new programs. I thank you for taking the leadership on this project.

Alcohol Policy Outcomes

Over the past year, we have built a close partnership with the state of California through the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency headed by Secretary Maria Contreras-Sweet.

Two months ago, the CSU signed a major pact with six state agencies to address the problem of alcohol abuse among university students on and off university campuses. Part of that agreement included the opportunity to pursue grant funding for our projects.

I am pleased to announce today that we soon will receive a check for $360,000 to begin implementing this partnership with the state.

The lead agencies we are working with are the Alcoholic Beverage Control, the Office of Traffic Safety and the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.

With this $360,000 – plus additional funds that we continue to pursue – we have developed a four-pronged approach using education, enforcement, training, and prevention. These have been shown to be the four key factors in successful programs.

Initially, the grant will involve eight CSU campuses. We aim to identify the scope of underage drinking on the campuses, build campus-community coalitions and increase enforcement of underage drinking laws.

We will be working with faculty, staff and students, as well as community leaders and law enforcement agencies. Our overall objective is to provide a safe campus environment and to encourage legal and responsible behavior among students. And we will continue to invest in this effort because it is so important.

If you read this week's news stories about the national alcohol abuse study, you saw that many efforts to reduce student drinking have failed. However, the successful programs are those that involve the community, law enforcement and the entire campus – from the president on down.

That is exactly what the CSU policy is all about, and that is what we are focusing on with this new grant.

You will hear more about our state partnership from the speakers who follow me, including Manny Espinoza, interim director of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

As you participate in today's conference, I want to make sure you know just how important your work is here today. A key part of the trustees' policy was to convene this conference and gather all of you together. The work that you do today will set the tone and direction for our campus policies in the future.

By sharing your "best practices" from each campus, you will help all of us do better in this critical area. I encourage all of you to take back what you have learned today and try out new programs.

Can we make a difference?

I believe that we can, if we have the support of the entire university and our communities and if we sustain our commitment to this project. Once again, I believe that if we save the life of just one student, we will be successful.

Thank you again for all of the work that you have done and will continue to do on behalf of our students and our campuses.

Back to speeches