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The new institutional policy on substance use could cement the alcohol ban on campus and could upset smokers of Stellenbosch University (SU).

The policy draft states that SU will adopt a preventative and proactive approach to minimizing smoking and hazardous and harmful substance use. Substance use, as defined in the policy, refers to alcohol, cannabis, illicit drugs or prescription drugs used beyond normal clinical practice.

To address substance dependency concerns for SU students and staff, the policy outlines the importance of having the necessary tools for self-recognition and access to the relevant resources offered at the university, including Campus Health, the Centre for Student Counselling and Development, Centre for Student Communities and Employee Wellness. Students and staff are also encouraged to seek professional help in this regard.

This new policy draft aims to promote “a supportive campus culture focused on prevention of substance use and substance use dependency. This includes the prevention of smoking and hazardous and harmful substance use as well as the awareness, prevention and treatment of substance use dependency.” It will detail campus structures and procedures for assistance to those affected by smoking and substance use, create ongoing awareness of its harmful effects, and ensure compliance to existing policies, rules and regulations.

According to the policy, it is grounded in principles of non-discrimination, safe and healthy, and the recognition that smoking and substance misuse is an institutional concern that can be prevented. SU will encourage, facilitate and support regular forums between staff and student stakeholder communities for prevention and management of these issues.

However, alcohol use on campus and in SU residences is still prohibited after months without an answer to the question many students have been asking whether anything is being done about it.

For clarification, Pieter Kloppers, Director of the Centre for Student Communities, explained that “there is a difference between the alcohol policy and the residence rules on alcohol.” What is known as the alcohol policy falls under the broader institutional policy concerning substance use that is under regular review. SU residence rules apply to how substance use is regulated in residences, which currently prohibits the use and storage of alcohol. This decision to the benefit of the campus community will stay in place “for the foreseeable future as we respond to the COVID pandemic,” according to Kloppers.

Dr Munita Dunn-Coetzee, Director of the Centre for Student Counselling and Development (CSCD), said on 13 May 2021 that “the outdated Alcohol Policy has been reviewed and integrated with a newly drafted policy on the use of substances, as well [as] regulations on smoking.” This new draft policy, The Management of Smoking and Substance Use at Stellenbosch University, is currently in its final concept form “after vast consultations with staff, students and experts in the field,” said Dr Dunn-Coetzee.

Some students are confused about this new policy and what it would mean for them. “After reading it, I first believed that it was a preamble for a further document to be sent of the policy itself. However, within the document, it references an existing document,” said Jarred Loggenberg, a second-year BEng student at SU. 

This new policy draft has been sent out on 18 May 2021 to all staff and students at SU for a public consultation phase that will last until the end of the month. Dunn-Coetzee also stated that webinars will be hosted within the next two weeks to provide the SU community with a chance to address their concerns and critique online during a discussion forum. “We strongly encourage you to provide your views, insight, and feedback regarding the various sections of the draft policy and an overall commentary,” Dunn-Coetzee concluded.

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