TCU trying to shed the “party school” image


The university was in the national spotlight once again this month with events that have highlighted the perception of the university as a party school. 

First, Playboy magazine ranked the university as the nation's 9th party school. Then, quarterback Casey Pachall withdrew for the semester after being arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. 

But this is a reputation university officials would gladly shed.

Chancellor Victor Boschini said the university is actively trying to keep students from abusing drugs and alcohol through educational programs and opportunities for involvement on campus that ensure the well-being and success of students.

"This is perhaps the most important thing we do at TCU in that we are all about students on our campus," Boschini said. "They are the lifeblood of this school."

The university currently has 350 programs for students to stay involved with the university, he said. Programs that range from targeting students who are struggling with substance abuse problems or students who are simply looking to connect with other students.

"In general students will not succeed in college-level work unless they are healthy and happy," he said. "Thus the well-being of our students is critically important."

In light of recent events, alumni and parents have had an overwhelmingly positive reaction, he said. They have even supported and praised the university for having programs such as the TCU Recovery Support Group.

Supporters now include football head coach Gary Patterson after he and his wife pledged funds to the TCU Recovery Support Group.

The group was started by the Alcohol and Drug Education Center and is intended to help students who are in any stage of the recovery process from alcohol, drugs and other substances, Rachel Leshner, program specialist in the Alcohol and Drug Education Center, said.

“We’re just here to help because we realize that even if one student is struggling, it affects the entire community,” she said.

But while the university has programs geared to the prevention and recovery of substance abuse, liquor law violations have continued to increase for the past three years.

On-campus liquor law violations rose 45 percent from 2009 to 2011, according to crime statistics from this year's Annual Security and Fire Safety report. 539 liquor law violations were reported in 2011 compared to 389 in 2009.

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Kathy Cavins-Tull said while there has been a steady increase in liquor law violations, it could be attributed to an increase in incoming first-year students as well as more assertiveness in campus patrol of substance abuse.

Cavins-Tull said students are surrounded by support staff at the university who are trained to help students be successful in their lives. 

In particular, students who have problems with substance abuse or other behaviors have the support and resources offered by the university with programs such as the TCU Recovery Support Group, Cavins-Tull said. 

Many people perceive binge drinking and 4-day weekends as a normal part of the college environment, but that behavior can be very dangerous, Cavins-Tull said. It can lead to distraction from coursework and it can hinder them from reaching their life goals, she said.

But for some students it takes more than a liquor law violation to realize they have a substance abuse problem, she said.

"[Some students] need to hit bottom before they are able to do something about it," Cavins-Tull said.

And that may include taking some time off from college life.

Substance abuse is not the only reason students take time off from school, Cavins-Tull said. Situations such as chronic illness, mental health issues and eating disorders are some of the things that can prevent students from reaching their goals.

"In the case of Casey or others who have done it, they are very brave because it's not an easy process," she said. "But it's something that affects the rest of their lives."

During their time at the university, students develop long-lasting lifestyle habits, she said.

"What you do here sets the table for the rest of your life," Cavins-Tull said.

Katy Colvin, a junior sociology major, agreed with the university's perception as a party school.

"Everyone knows that we are a party school more than other schools, but at the same time we have to have respect for our own school," she said.

There are a huge variety of programs that have been helpful, but the decision to seek treatment is one students must make, Colvin said.

Although the university may provide support programs, many students are living on their own for the first time. They will do certain things regardless of what programs are in place, she said.

On the other hand, Darius Thompson, a junior accounting major, said he was surprised to find out about the university's rankings in Playboy magazine.

Thompson said he did not consider the university to be a party school even with the latest event that put the university in the spotlight.

"I don't think that one individual person's decision should reflect the entire student body," he said in regards to Pachall's arrest.