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The Issue of Wine

The Issue of Wine

WWU’s Alcohol Policy Explained    

By Lauren Vizcarra  

Why does Walla Walla University have an alcohol policy?   

The Seventh-day Adventist church began in the mid-1800s during a strong temperance movement, which was a social movement against the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Leaders of the church, including Ellen G. White, campaigned against both drunkenness and the sale of alcohol. The SDA church’s strong stance against alcohol is deeply rooted in the origins of the church, which came about in a time when alcohol was shunned. [1]   

The 22nd of the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the SDA church is on Christian behavior. Part of this belief states that “since alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and the irresponsible use of drugs and narcotics are harmful to our bodies, we are to abstain from them as well.” [2] 

Troy Fitzgerald, a WWU professor and pastor at the WWU church, wrote a book called “Roundabout Faith: 28 Fundamental Beliefs for Young Adults.” In the chapter on Christian behavior, he talks about how we as Christians try to emulate Christ in everything we do. Many Adventists believe that Jesus did not drink wine, but rather grape juice. Fitzgerald writes about how disciples of Jesus “simply found that they would rather be obedient to God and abnormal to the world than be anything else.” It is true that abstaining from alcohol is not the way of the world. [3] 

The only acceptable “wine” on and off campus. Photo by Lauren Vizcarra 

The alcohol policy at WWU is very clear. No student is to manufacture, distribute, purchase, possess, or use alcohol while enrolled at WWU. That means that even while off campus and during breaks, students are expected to abide by the alcohol policy. Doug Tilstra, vice president of student life, says that WWU has one of the more thorough alcohol policies among other Adventist universities. [4] 

There have been minor changes to the alcohol policy throughout the years, but the latest big reform came in the summer of 2019. Prompted by “the basketball incident,”  revisions to the student handbook, including the alcohol policy, were initiated, going through some 35 drafts and taking many hours. [5] 

The basketball incident happened in the fall of 2018. Just before school began, 16 of the 18 members of the men’s basketball team got together in a cabin that belonged to one of the player’s family. There, alcohol was consumed. The incident was reported and an investigation by the school was conducted. The result was that the men’s basketball team was dissolved for the 2018-2019 season and several of the 16 members involved transferred schools or were asked to leave. [6] 

A town hall meeting was called by WWU administration to talk about the incident and to put to bed some wild rumors that had been circulating. Starting at 8 p.m., the town hall meeting did not conclude until 12 a.m. Students were given the chance to voice their concerns and ask questions. Eager students filled the Fine Arts Center auditorium and spilled into the aisles. [7] 

See Also

Administration realized that the school’s alcohol policy needed some revisions, so their goal was to make the policy more clear. Tilstra says that the biggest change was the wording of the policy to reflect the school’s concern for student health. The goal of the policy isn’t mainly to ban alcohol because the church is against it, but to create a healthy environment where students can be safe and thrive. [8] 

The student handbook also has a “Good Samaritan Policy.” It is enacted when students seek medical attention for their peers related to alcohol or drug impairment. The policy states, “The student who reports as well as the student who is medically compromised due to substance use are exempt from the WWU report and investigation process. Students are always encouraged to seek assistance in the event of an emergency.” In other words, if a friend is sick due to alcohol or drug consumption, do not hesitate to seek assistance. The student who seeks help will not be held responsible for any drinking or drug consumption they themselves took part in. [9] 

Self-reporting an alcohol problem will not result in a student getting in trouble with the school. Instead, the school will work with the student to get them the help they need. Students should never hesitate to reach out for assistance, says Tilstra. [10-11] 

WWU’s alcohol policy comes from being owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist church. The beliefs of the church, specifically the 22nd Fundamental Belief, are that Christians should abstain from alcohol and other harmful substances. The goal of WWU’s alcohol policy is not to create do’s and don’ts for students or to try and control them, but to ultimately keep them safe and healthy. It is not about seeking to regulate what they do out of a stern church teaching, but rather to protect students from substances that can harm them. [12] 

APA Citations 

  1. Interview with Doug Tilstra, 3/4/21. 
  1. Seventh-Day Adventist Church website. The 28 fundamental beliefs.
  1. Fitzgerald, T. (2012). Roundabout faith: 28 fundamental beliefs for young adults. Leadout Ministries. 
  1. Walla Walla University website. 2020-2021 student handbook.
  1. Interview with Doug Tilstra, 3/4/21. 
  1. The Collegian archives ISSUU website. 2018, October 31. Issue 5, Volume 103.
  1.  Interview with Doug Tilstra, 3/4/21. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Walla Walla University website. 2020-2021 Student Handbook.
  1.  Interview with Doug Tilstra, 3/4/21 and 2020-2021. 
  1. Walla Walla University website. Student Handbook.
  1. Interview with Doug Tilstra, 3/4/21. 
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