Kansas University may not just track students’ grades in the future. In some cases, it may track where students had their last drink as well.
Both city and university officials confirmed they’re in discussions to put several new programs in place for the next school year aimed at improving off-campus behavior of students.
The discussions include creating a unique database of drinking-related crimes or accidents throughout the city that could be used by university and city officials to spot problem bars or party houses.
The database is one of three programs city and KU leaders are contemplating for the next school year.
“There is a great deal of promise to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods near the university,” said City Commissioner Hugh Carter, who has been the city’s lead spokesman in the discussions. “From what I’ve seen, the university is ready to really put the resources toward this.”
Carter has been meeting on the issue for the last 10 months with city and KU officials, including the city’s chief of police, KU’s chief of police, City Manager David Corliss, and Tim Caboni, vice chancellor of public affairs for KU.
Among the programs under consideration are:
• A last drink program: When a student is cited for an alcohol offense or is taken to the hospital for an alcohol-related issue, an attempt will be made to gather information about where the student had his or her last drink. The information will be compiled in a database, which leaders hope will allow them to spot trends of whether incidents are stemming from certain drinking establishments or party houses in the community.
Carter said he doesn’t envision the program — at least initially — being punitive toward drinking establishments.
“We want to be proactive so we can educate those establishments about what is going on,” Carter said.
• Back on TRAC intervention: KU and the city are exploring joining the national Back on TRAC program, which is an acronym for Treatment, Responsibility and Accountability on Campus. The program was founded at Colorado State University, and involves local enforcement partnering with university officials to identify substance-abusing students who could enter an intervention program.
Carter said the program would be a big step for both the city and the university because it would involve the city sharing data from its Municipal Court and arrest records with KU, so that the university can see when students are involved in substance-abuse issues off campus.
Carter said the city may require students who are seeking diversions through the Municipal Court system to enroll in the intervention program. The university also likely would have mechanisms to strongly encourage students who have substance abuse violations to enroll in the program.
• A good neighbor program: Carter said he is particularly excited about a proposal that would create a council or group of “student ambassadors” for each neighborhood near the university. The idea would be that the ambassador groups would conduct educational programs with student residents about how to appropriately interact with non-student residents of a neighborhood.
Other universities with similar programs have created a 24-hour hotline for neighborhood residents to call about noise, trash and other nuisance issues. Some programs also include neighborhood specific trash policies, proactive walks where ambassadors look for potential problem areas, and specific policies on how to deal with properties that are repeat offenders.
Caboni said the university is approaching all three potential programs with the idea of helping students rather than sanctioning them for bad behavior. He said the university’s student code is written in a way that — unlike at other universities — makes it difficult for the school to sanction students for off-campus behavior.
“The focus at this time is really how we can engage and support those folks who stumble, instead of using a stick and a sanction,” Caboni said.
Caboni said several logistical details remain to be worked out, but he said he fully expects the programs to be in place for the next school year.
“The chancellor has made it clear we are going to raise that crimson and blue curtain that sometimes separates the university from the community,” he said.