Haskell students and administrators deserve praise for taking a courageous stand against alcohol abuse on the Haskell campus.
Haskell Indian Nations University and its students should be congratulated for their strong stand against alcohol abuse.
A traffic accident that apparently involved alcohol recently killed three Haskell students in North Lawrence. In response, Haskell and many students reaffirmed their support of a zero-tolerance alcohol policy in university residence halls. The policy had been questioned by some who thought the students involved in the accident might have returned to the residence halls earlier if they had not feared repercussions, including eviction from the halls.
Karen Swisher, Haskell's interim president, made two wise and courageous statements about the zero-tolerance policy following the accident. First she said, "While we recognize that many of our students do not drink alcohol or have problems with alcohol use, we know that the effects of alcohol too often present a very serious problem in many areas of Indian Country, from which our students come." Then, Swisher accurately added, "We also know that alcohol use and abuse is a very serious problem associated with college and university campuses across this country, not just at Haskell."
Haskell, as well as the entire Lawrence community, has been saddened by the loss of three young men in the North Lawrence accident. Similar tragedies involving Kansas University students also have occurred in recent years.
Each of these incidents has been followed by pleas from survivors and families for students to reexamine their attitude toward drinking and particularly drinking and driving. Those messages probably have an effect on a few students, particularly those who were close to those killed or otherwise involved, but little impact on the overall alcohol consumption habits of local students.
University administrators and other interested groups have examined the problem and tried to come up with new strategies, but despite impassioned pleas, new university policies and hours of meetings, the tragedies continue.
Haskell's zero-tolerance policy didn't prevent last week's tragic accident, but neither should it be blamed for causing the deaths. The policy isn't a misguided effort to drive Haskell students out of residence halls; it is a strong statement of what university officials believe is best for students both on campus and for their lives after they leave Haskell.
The community's heart goes out to the families and friends of the accident victims. If, as it appears, drinking and driving contributed to their untimely deaths, perhaps the loss of these young men can serve some purpose by again driving home the difficult lessons of how precious life is and how quickly a bad decision can bring it to an end.