Feb 03 2016 Drug Screening Makes Its Way to Frat Row in Alabama
A good drug test is useful… but no replacement for smart policy.
When you hear about drug screening, you expect it to come up in the context of a job interview, or a police search, not a fraternity’s weekly order of business. And yet, in the University of Alabama’s fraternity row, the university is requiring drug screenings. But why? And will it achieve what the university is hoping?
A Tough Test
The University of Alabama’s policy is unusual in a couple of ways. First of all, the university itself is administering the tests, providing the facilities for samples to be collected and analyzed, and working with the fraternities to deal with the results. Secondly, this is being done despite the fact that fraternities are administering tests on their own, and with the agreement of fraternity leadership. Finally, fraternity members are being subject to tests students who aren’t a part of the Greek system don’t have to go through. Furthermore, this policy dates back to at least 2009 with some fraternities. It appears they’re looking most closely for evidence of alcohol abuse, although there are federal penalties for any brothers caught using marijuana.
Why the tough policy? The University of Alabama has had problems with hazing in the past, and the university’s famous, some would say notorious, Greek system has received a fair amount of blame for the issue. Most recently, there was an incident where pledges were forced to stand in a mixture of ice and salt, causing chemical burns to their feet.
Not every Greek member is happy about the policy, and some are arguing that it’s a bureaucratic way to chip away at the Greek system before shutting it down entirely. But the main question remains: Is this an effective use of drug testing?
A Dry Spell?
Can drug testing solve hazing woes?
One point that’s hard for the University of Alabama to truly dismiss is that once someone attending the university turns twenty-one, they’re not committing a crime by consuming alcohol. And by the same token, while it might be easy to blame alcohol consumption for the university’s ongoing problems, that doesn’t mean you can solve them.
The real test, at least for the University, will be when they do everything by the book and then a hazing incident occurs anyway. It also raises an important question of why fraternity members are subject to the tests while the other two-thirds of its 36,000 attendees aren’t. Is the problem with the drinking or with how the organizations conduct themselves?
The fundamental problem any background check company works hard to help their clients to avoid is treating the test like it’s the end of the line. A failure on a voluntary test doesn’t necessarily mean innocence or guilt, but rather gives you one more point in a plot of data about a person. The University of Alabama is right to be concerned about hazing, and any step the school makes is one that shows they’re serious about addressing the problem. But they should check their policies closely to ensure they’re effective. Otherwise, they’ll find the hard way that drug tests are powerful tools, but no replacement for smart policy.
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