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Changing the Party School Image of University of Colorado

Four years ago the University of Colorado (CU) was the number one party school in the country. As a parent, I would be reluctant to send my kids to a school that earned such a dubious award. CU wasn’t too pleased with it either. So they set about making changes that have dropped CU right off the party school list. And they have some impressive statistics.

  • 17 percent of CU students in 2013 reported never using alcohol, according to the National College Health Assessment.
  • There was a 47 percent drop in minor-in-possession tickets between 2013 and 2014.
  • The number of referrals to addiction recovery centers dropped by 37 percent.
  • CU estimates that one-third of the students either don’t drink at all, or drink very little.

“Alcohol abuse is the single most dangerous public health hazard on campus,” Donald Misch, senior assistant vice chancellor for health and wellness at CU, has said.

Some of the danger is from the alcohol itself – alcohol toxicity, for example, which can be fatal. But many of the other mishaps on the campus are also associated with alcohol, everything from physical and sexual assaults and property damage to lower grades.

UC also has a recovery center for kids who have had trouble with drugs and alcohol and need support to get and stay clean. The center has a community lounge, support groups, study groups, meetings, and professional addiction help support staff who offer free counseling.

But the school’s focus hasn’t been as much on down-playing the party school aspect as it has on academic achievement, research, and all the other good things CU has to offer.

Before the measures the university has been taking – known as the Be Boulder campaign – when focus groups were asked what celebrities they associated with CU, the answers included ‘Charlie Sheen’, ‘Lindsay Lohan’ and others who’ve been heavily involved in drugs and alcohol and really contribute nothing to society. The opposite, in fact.

Now the same question is answered with ‘Einstein’, ‘Jane Goodall’, ‘Bill Gates’ and ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ – proving that the school’s focus on academic achievement is starting to pay off.

And, I have to say, I don’t know who came up with this PR campaign, but they deserve a medal.

This is all especially interesting in light of Colorado’s legalization of marijuana. Are the students also smoking less marijuana? The statistics seem to focus more on alcohol than on drugs, so it’s hard to say.

Regardless, if you had a problem with sending your kids to CU, you might take another look at it.

Most likely, you’re paying for the school. And knowing that your money will be spent on real education in an environment that considers Einstein, Jane Goodall and Mahatma Gandhi to be role models, not heavy druggies and drinkers, should be an inspiration.

It also brings a little hope into a pretty messed up world. When these students graduate, they may well be creating solutions!

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