September 18, 2017
Dear Tulane Community:
We are writing to you about a difficult subject. For a long time, Tulane has had an almost unique reputation as an academically prestigious institution that also gets labeled a party school. With an unofficial motto of “work hard, play hard,” many of us have tried to persuade ourselves that it was possible to balance both without consequence.
Here is the problem: while this issue is by no means unique to Tulane, our students use drugs and alcohol at a disproportionate rate, in ways that threaten their lives, their health, their safety and their academic success. This makes our students much more likely to be vulnerable to crimes and more likely to commit crimes, including sexual assault. It also feeds a growing national problem with addiction.
One of the illusions of youth is a sense of immortality, but the sad fact is that Tulane’s culture of excessive partying causes us real harm all too often. We cannot send our students the message that it is possible to balance a fulfilling life and career with the abuse of drugs and alcohol. It is not.
How do we address these issues?
The first thing is to admit the problems and to talk about them. That starts today, and it starts with all of us.
We have to change our campus culture. And while our beloved New Orleans offers challenges in that regard, it also provides real opportunities. There is no better place in the world to learn how to “play hard” with exuberant creativity, music and community rather than the ultimate dreariness of binge drinking. New Orleans shows us how to balance our hard work with joyfulness and fun.
We want Tulane to be a place that addresses these challenges proactively. We want to create a community that enjoys all life has to offer without going to extremes. Our commitment is to work with the community to develop new resources and opportunities that allow us to be social without the need for ambulance transports.
We want the changing of our campus culture to be a positive opportunity for us all and not viewed as punitive. However, part of creating the culture that we seek is holding ourselves accountable. For the university’s part, we intend to work harder to avoid sending any signals that make us complicit in a culture of substance abuse and binge drinking. As one example, that means you will see increases in TUPD’s enforcement of laws against drinking by minors.
Our leadership in Student Affairs and Campus Health are exploring better ways to prevent addiction before it happens, and to aid the recovery of those who struggle with it. With the help of national experts, Dr. Dusty Porter and Dr. Scott Tims will implement the best public health approaches to addressing alcohol and drug abuse.
Tulane’s problems are part of a growing national problem. Our country has witnessed a startling increase in the levels of addiction from alcohol to opioids. And so we must become a leader in finding the answers. We will use all of our resources, the best and brightest minds from around the world that make up the Tulane community. We will work with our schools of Medicine, Social Work, and Public Health and engage the ideas and innovation of our students themselves. For 183 years, Tulane has never shied away from solving the intractable problems of the world, particularly when those problems have such an impact on our own students.
Mike Fitts Doug Hertz
President Chair of the Board of Tulane