Drinking alcohol seems to be a part of the typical college experience. Four out of five college students drink alcohol according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Union University, however, prohibits the consumption of alcohol for Union students, causing many to scratch their heads. This policy, often misunderstood, is one worth exploring.
What is Union’s policy toward alcohol?
The policy is straightforward. The use of alcohol is prohibited for all enrolled students.
“The possession, use, purchase or distribution of alcoholic beverages on or off campus is prohibited,” according to the handbook.
Drinking in Cherry Grove, waiting until the summer or drinking when in a foreign country are all prohibited by Union’s policy. As long as a student is enrolled at Union, even if on break, they cannot consume alcohol. This policy includes students who are part of the housing contract and those who are of age.
Even if you do not consume alcohol, being in a situation where alcohol is present can be in violation of Union’s policy.
“Students must leave a situation where alcohol is present or may face possible sanctions even if they are not drinking,” according to the handbook. Even students who abstain from drinking but participate in a place where alcohol is consumed can be found in violation of campus policy.
Possession of empty containers or related paraphernalia of alcohol can be used as evidence of drinking.
Why have this policy?
There are several reasons that the university has banned alcohol from campus.
Union University is affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, a convention of churches who are associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. In other words, Union University is a Southern Baptist school.
The Southern Baptist Convention has stated Southern Baptists’ stance on alcohol with clarity. The use of alcohol has lead to many deaths on the highways, the breakup of families and homes and a harmful addiction to the substance, according to the SBC.
The SBC stands in “total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing and consuming of alcoholic beverages” according to their resolution On Alcohol Use in America.
They believe that those who advocate for the consumption of alcohol are doing so “based on a misinterpretation of the doctrine of ‘our freedom in Christ,’” according to the resolution.
Because Union is a Southern Baptist school, their prohibition of alcohol logically comes as a result. But affiliation with the SBC is not the only reason consuming alcohol is not allowed.
“We are an academic community primarily composed of students who are not of legal drinking age,” said Dean of Students Brian Carrier, vice president of student life.
“Alcohol does not contribute to, one, the positive accentuation of the mind when you’re talking about educational pursuits, and two, the positive development or cultivation of community,” Carrier said.
Educational pursuits have been identified as suffering as a result of alcohol. Twenty-five percent of college students have reported academic consequences from their drinking according to the NIAAA.
Carrier stressed that the university does not believe drinking is a sin.
“We as a university understand there is Christian liberty,” he said. “We all have freedom in Christ. This is a policy in which the university is setting boundaries to create an environment that is conducive to academic excellence.”
What happens if a student is caught drinking alcohol?
Students caught drinking alcohol will be subject to discipline by the university. These situations are usually complex, and Union will deal with them by looking at the severity of the infringement and seeing what can best be done to help students, according to Carrier.
The disciplinary system is made “to get students to link belief and behavior, to think about those decisions for themselves, to think as adults…we want that to be redemptive, and we want it to be educational,” Carrier said.
This often involves a meeting with a professional counselor. Sometimes this policy can bring in other people in the student’s life like a residence director or alumni.
For Carrier, this policy is a matter of calling for students.
“Your role is and your call as college students is to grow in mind and grow in relationship with Christ and one another,” Carrier said. “It’s your call here, and so I want them to be doing things that positively reinforce that…alcohol is just one of those things that don’t positively reinforce that.”