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'Animal House' at UO.

Byline: The Register-Guard

"Animal House" was filmed 33 years ago, but there's still a connection between the movie and the University of Oregon - a connection that wouldn't stick without a kinship at some level between campus life as portrayed by John Belushi & Co. and life as a Duck. So when the U.S. Department of Education ranks the rates of drug and alcohol use at large public universities, few would expect to find the UO in the bottom quarter. But rankings near the top - No. 3 for drugs and No. 4 for alcohol - deserve a closer look.

The department collects the drug and alcohol statistics as part of its responsibilities under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act of 1990. The act is named for a student who was murdered on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., in 1986. The law requires universities whose students receive federal financial aid to report statistics on major crimes such as homicide, forcible sex offenses and arson.

The act also requires reporting on drug and liquor law violations. In these categories, the statistics don't count arrests or police reports. Instead, colleges report the number of students referred for disciplinary action. By this measure the UO ranked high - 5.4 percent of students were referred for alcohol violations in 2009, and 1.3 percent for drug violations.

Few of these cases involved the police or the courts. Instead, students are ordered to appear at disciplinary hearings for violations of the UO student code of conduct. Penalties can include fines and orders to complete online courses.

The UO's high rankings are evidence of a drug and alcohol problem. They could also be evidence of an aggressive effort to address that problem. At some campuses, violations wouldn't show up in the Clery Act statistics until the criminal justice system became involved, yielding low numbers. At the UO, reporting is triggered by low-threshold events, placing it toward the top of the rankings.

Some aspects of "Animal House" may find true-life expression at the UO. But the UO is also making a strong effort to ensure that the worst of those aspects don't ruin students' lives. The Clery Act rankings are likely a measure of both student behavior and the UO's response.
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Title Annotation:Editorials and Letters
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 11, 2011
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