Lurching Forward

Two steps forward, one giant step back.

On the very day, March 24, when Chico State University was welcoming back the university’s splendid women’s basketball team from the Division II national championships, another group of athletes, a dozen members of the women’s softball team, attended an off-campus party. With them was a 17-year-old high school recruit, who got so drunk she needed hospitalization.

And so it goes, apparently, in the university’s ongoing effort to improve its image and curb alcohol abuse among its students. Unfortunately, the campus’ recent record, including the deaths of several students in alcohol-related incidents, means that negative publicity inevitably will be more potent than positive.

To their credit, university President Paul Zingg and his staff immediately acknowledged the seriousness of the incident and took steps to sanction it, including canceling the remainder of the softball team’s season. Let’s hope the university’s student athletes get the message, just as we assume their fraternity and sorority counterparts did last year.

The university is clearly doing all it can to end alcohol abuse among students. Last Thursday at a press conference, it announced another step forward. The chiefs of the university and city police departments told reporters that the two agencies had agreed that henceforth university police, not their city counterparts, would patrol and handle incidents at the 16 university-recognized Greek houses. Students who violate the law or the houses’ agreements with the university would be subject to discipline by the university in addition to any criminal penalties.

It’s a welcome move, one that will further strengthen the university’s framework of controls over its students—while emphasizing its expectations of students. Ultimately, though, it’s up to the students to exercise control over themselves. Ultimately, they are the only ones who can insure that nobody else dies from alcohol abuse at Chico State.