Statement of President Knapp on the University Review of the Events Surrounding Laura Treanor's Death

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October 08, 2009

The death of Laura Treanor last winter was a devastating event for her family and for all of us at The George Washington University.

Last May, following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department, the District of Columbia Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that Laura had died of acute alcohol intoxication. Once that result was established, I asked Dean of Students Linda Donnels and Chief of University Police Dolores Stafford to review the circumstances surrounding Laura’s death and relevant university policies in order to determine what steps, if any, the University should take in light of this tragic loss. Their conclusions have now been shared with Laura’s family.

The review was performed in tandem with the University’s annual evaluation of its alcohol education and enforcement program. This evaluation is conducted each summer in an ongoing effort to meet the evolving needs of the University community. As part of this process, GW reviews similar programs at other colleges and universities. It then considers whether to modify its own program for the coming year.

Based upon these reviews, the enhancements of our programs listed below have been implemented for the 2009-2010 academic year. We are continuing to review our policies and programs and will update the University community on future enhancements.


Increasing Student Awareness.

This semester GW has initiated the “Every Colonial Counts” campaign to encourage students to help others they believe have become intoxicated. The campaign is designed to reinforce the concept of a caring campus community through shared responsibility. It focuses on increasing student understanding about blood alcohol concentrations, the signs of intoxication, how to get help for a friend, University policies relating to alcohol and drug abuse, and healthy decision making. Promotion of this campaign will occur throughout the academic year.

Encouraging Parental Involvement.

This semester the process of parental notification, in place for several years, has been enhanced to encourage greater involvement by parents of under-age students who have been involved in alcohol-related incidents. For example, when a student becomes intoxicated to the point where he or she is transported to the hospital, parents are being contacted, in most cases, by Dean of Students staff within 24 hours after receiving notice of the incident from the University Police. A follow-up telephone call is also made to the parents once the student has started the educational process.

In addition, when a student has been found to have violated an alcohol policy in the University’s Code of Student Conduct, parents are contacted and provided with resources for how to help their student address alcohol-related issues.

These and other steps recognize the central role parents play in shaping their student’s behaviors. Parents are able to combine the information they receive from the University with the knowledge they have regarding their student’s medical history and any prior experiences their student has had with alcohol or drugs, and obtain medical and/or psychological advice that they and their student deem appropriate.

Providing More Information.

This semester more information is being provided to the campus community regarding alcohol abuse, including on-campus and off-campus resources for alcohol addiction assessment, education, and support programs. For example, an “Information for Parents” section has been added to the Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education website to provide parents with additional alcohol education resources. Parents of incoming first-year students are provided with a publication titled “Guide For Parents: Conversations about Alcohol” that provides tips about speaking to their students about alcohol. Information is also sent to parents through the Parent Services listserv several times throughout the academic year.

Heightening Amnesty Requirements.

Under GW’s “Alcohol Medical Amnesty Program,” when students who have no prior history of harmful alcohol behaviors are transported to the hospital due to alcohol intoxication, they are generally not subjected to formal disciplinary proceedings as long as they complete the evaluation and education requirements of the program.

This semester a student participating in the program is required to have two separate in-person meetings with professional staff members. The purpose of these meetings is to emphasize to the student, through personal contact, the importance of making informed and responsible decisions regarding alcohol use, so the student can be best equipped to avoid future alcohol abuse. The first meeting is with a student affairs professional and is designed to learn more from the student about the behaviors that led up to incident, the amount of alcohol consumed, where the student was drinking, and any consequences the student may have experienced (blackouts, vomiting, missing class, etc.) as a result.

The student is provided with an information packet at the meeting that includes a letter from the Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education, a resource card with contact information for medical emergencies, information about blood alcohol concentrations, a resource list of local in- and out-patient alcohol and drug treatment centers, a brochure titled “Drinking: What’s Normal and What’s Not”, a booklet from the National Institutes of Health titled “Rethinking Drinking”, and other materials.

Based on the information gathered by the student affairs professional, the student is then assigned to be assessed either by a member of the professional staff at the University Counseling Center or a Certified Addictions Counselor. Following the assessment, the student may be referred for treatment and/or additional education on alcohol abuse.



Michelle Sherrard - 202-994-1423 - [email protected]



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