When each undergraduate student comes to Lee University, he or she is required to sign and ultimately live by the guidelines set by the Community Covenant. One aspect of this covenant'the ban of alcohol'has been both disputed and praised throughout the years, but is here to stay.
'The Community Covenant has been in place for a long time,' Campus Pastor Jimmy Harper said. 'Basically, it's a way for Lee University to say, 'Look, we are a Christian college, we do expect a higher standard of living and this is what we expect out of people who come to be a part of our community.''
According to the fifth statute of the Community Covenant, 'Since the body of the Christian is the temple of the Holy Spirit, it deserves respect and preservation of its wellbeing. Therefore, the use of alcohol ' violates our community standard.'
Dean of Students Alan McClung said this stance on alcohol is a good policy for Lee students, both on and off campus.
'Having a non-alcohol policy at Lee University is something that we feel is a positive policy as people are looking to attend a school that has a standard such as this in place,' McClung said.
Vice President of Student Development Mike Hayes said that there are a variety of reasons as to why Lee remains an alcohol-free campus.
'We had a group of our staff look at this issue a few years ago to articulate why we continue to ask students to abstain from alcohol,' Hayes said. 'As a Christ-centered liberal arts university, we believe that certain policies'like alcohol abstinence'can help promote an atmosphere and campus community in which students can develop optimally.'
Hayes said the two key ideas for this continued decision are maintaining a safe campus and considering how alcohol affects students' ability to learn.
'We know from research that alcohol is often a contributing factor in many dangerous and harmful situations,' Hayes said. 'In light of these issues, I do not foresee the policy changing.'
Harper said that a ban on alcohol on university campuses is not abnormal, or unique to Christian universities.
'Not only does Lee hold to a complete ban on campus, most secular schools have gone to a complete ban on campus because binge drinking has been such a huge issue,' Harper said.
According to an article by USA Today, about 35 percent of college students binge drink, which is defined as drinking five or more drinks in a row.
Furthermore, this article also cites that about 70 percent of college campuses prohibit alcohol at dorm events. Many like Lee and most recently Dartmouth College, ban it altogether.
In regards to alcohol-related offenses, according to results revealed by the Crime on Campus 2013 report, which is a statistical summary of crimes reported on campuses of higher education provided by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, that there was an 18.6 percent decrease in alcohol-related crimes from 1,346 in 2012 to 1,096 in 2013.
'Individuals under the age of 21 accounted for 77.7 percent of alcohol-related arrestees,' the report reads. 'Male arrestees (662) in this category outnumbered females (289) two to one.'
According to the 2014 Clery Act for Lee, there were eight on-campus Liquor Law Violations in 2013, which is down from 12 in 2012. There were no reports of off-campus violations.
'When we receive information that a student has engaged in alcohol consumption, we do respond from a discipline perspective,' Hayes said. 'Most of what we deal with relates to simple consumption. I do consider the number of infractions to be low compared to other campuses our size.'
According to the 2014-2015 Student Handbook, the first and second offenses of alcohol consumption result in 20 accountability hours per offense and on the third offense, there is an additional 20 accountability hours that leads to automatic suspension.
Furthermore, after the second offense, 'the university reserves the right to contact parents/guardians which may include recommending counseling, accountability or assistance from outside agencies depending on the severity of the incident.'
These discipline measures have changed since the 2011-2012 Student Handbook, which said, 'Should a student be found to be in violation of the alcohol policy, on-or off-campus, he/she will be assigned 25 accountability hours. A second offense will result in immediate suspension from the University.'
Unlike undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty members do not sign the community covenant, yet Harper said that it is 'understood' as to what the expectations of the university are in regards to alcohol consumption.
'Lee's doctrine is Church of God doctrine,' Harper said. 'We don't specifically say, 'If you drink, you're going to hell.' We say that we would advise that our members take a good look at all of the things that we think are commitments that we should practically everyday hold to because it benefits the kingdom of God.'
Hayes said his desire is for students to develop holistically in a healthy environment and feels that an alcohol-free campus allows students 'to navigate this process in a safer way.'
'I do want students to understand that we know that college can be a time of boundary testing, and we want to help them understand why we have chosen this policy for our campus community,' Hayes said. 'I also want students to know that we have resources to help them deal with any substance abuse issues confidentially. Our posture is definitely not punitive. Whether we are helping a student through counseling or the discipline process, it's all aimed at developing that student within the guidelines of our community.'