Behavior Policies

Alcohol, Drugs, & Tobacco


From a biblical and theological standpoint the use of alcohol is a complex issue for which there is not a simple or straightforward ethical response. The biblical and theological stance on alcohol can best be summarized this way: Alcohol comes from a natural process in God's good creation, but because of its potential misuse and damage to humans and society, decisions about alcohol should be made in relationship to the needs, perspectives, and particular issues of a given community, and any consumption should be characterized by self-control.

In the Bible wine is not viewed as inherently evil, but rather is seen as having both positive and negative uses. Because it comes from the natural creation process it can be viewed as a good gift of God. Thus, Isaac in a blessing to his son prays that God will give him "the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine" (Gen. 27:28). Jesus' first miracle, at a wedding feast, is to turn water into wine to meet the needs of the guests and, as the son of God, to show his blessings upon the common, good things of life (Jn. 2:1-11). Moreover, both the Proverbs (Prov. 31:6) and the apostle Paul commended wine for medicinal purposes (I Tim. 5:23).

However, the Bible clearly recognizes that because alcohol can cause loss of personal inhibitions and even loss of consciousness, there must be significant limits upon its use. Drunkenness is clearly forbidden in the scriptures, for it leads to uncontrolled behavior which is contrary to the control of God's Spirit (Eph. 5:23), godliness, and moral virtue (Gal. 5:21). One Proverb, recognizing its enticing lure and its potentially devastating blow to human life, states: "Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind utter perverse things" (Prov. 23:31-33).

Because of the potential damage to individuals, communities, and whole societies, any use of alcohol must always be characterized by self-control, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:23). Christians are to "make every effort to support [their] faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self control" (2 Pet. 1:5-6). A criterion for leaders in the church is "not indulging in much wine" (I Tim. 3:8).The decision of whether and when a Christian should use alcohol must always be discerned in relationship to the communities of which they are a part, and for which they bear responsibility. In discussions about controversial matters in which there is not a clear right and wrong, the apostle Paul notes that "all things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful, but not all things build up" (I Cor. 10:23). We therefore have a responsibility on matters like alcohol to think not just about our own interests, but the interests of other people and the community of which we are a part. Though wine and meat offered to idols are not in themselves evil, Romans 14:20-22 encourages us to refrain if it causes harm to a brother or sister in Christ. Thus, the biblical story invites us to view matters like alcohol consumption with discernment, self-control and in relation to the needs, perspectives and issues of the community, while understanding that alcohol is also a good gift of God when used appropriately.


Messiah University is an alcohol, illegal drugs, and tobacco free campus. The University complies with the Drug Free Schools and Campuses Act and its implementing regulations (34 CFR Part 86). Students cannot for any reason illegally manufacture, distribute, dispense, possess, or use any controlled substance. Possession means having the substances or being in the presence of these substances. This includes, but is not limited to, residences, vehicles, or in another location on or off campus.

Any student who is convicted of violating a criminal drug statute is required to notify the University, including the Financial Aid Office, within five days of the conviction (including pleas of guilty or nolo contendere). For students who have a drug- or alcohol-related problem that may be alleviated through counseling, the University will deal with those students through the counseling process, rather than through disciplinary processes, if the student comes for help voluntarily.

It is expected that while students are enrolled in course work, including breaks during the academic year (e.g., Thanksgiving, Fall and Spring Breaks), they will not use alcohol or illegal drugs or tobacco both on and off campus.


Students who are legally of-age may responsibly consume alcohol:

1. When they are with their parents or guardians.

2. When the occasion is consistent with celebrations, rituals, or religious traditions (i.e., toasting at weddings, taking communion) associated with family or a host family or under the direct guidance and observation of a Messiah University educator as part of an approved cross-cultural course or service/outreach educational experience.

3. When students are living away from campus during summer and Christmas breaks and the academic year is not in session.

If you have questions concerning the alcohol policy and/or its application to certain situations, you are encouraged to contact the Associate Dean of Students Office.

Violation of this policy may result in sanctions ranging from a letter of reprimand to expulsion. As noted in the Student Handbook, a record of disciplinary sanctions is kept on file in Student Affairs while the student is at Messiah. University officials, as well as parents, will be involved or notified when appropriate. The Department of Safety may conduct a Breathalyzer test to determine alcohol consumption. Any individual’s refusal to cooperate and submit to this test will be considered a violation of this policy.

The University will also involve local law enforcement officials when appropriate. Illegal possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs, or illegal use or possession of alcohol is punishable under applicable local, state, and federal law. Punishments include stringent fines, loss of driver’s license, loss of possessions obtained through the profits of or used in the sale or distribution of illegal drugs, and/or imprisonment.


Students, regardless of age, will be granted immunity from University disciplinary proceedings for the possession or consumption of alcohol if the Department of Safety, Residence Life staff, or other University official, becomes aware of the possession or consumption solely because the individual was seeking medical assistance for someone else. The person seeking assistance must reasonably believe he or she is the first to call for assistance, must use his/her own name with authorities, and must stay with the individual needing medical assistance until help arrives. Students will be immune from student disciplinary proceedings for consumption or possession of alcohol if she/he can establish the following:

1. The only way University officials became aware of the person's violation is because the person placed a 911 call, or a call to Dispatch/ Department of Safety, police or emergency services, in good faith based on a reasonable belief that another person was in need of immediate medical attention to prevent death or serious injury.

2. The student reasonably believed she/he was the first person to make a 911 call, or a call to Dispatch/Department of Safety, police or emergency services, and report that a person needed immediate medical attention to prevent death or serious injury.

3. The student provided his/her own name to the 911 operator or equivalent campus safety, police or emergency officer.

4. The student remained with the person needing medical assistance until emergency health care providers arrived and the need for his/her presence had ended.

The health risks associated with the use of illegal drugs and the abuse of alcohol are significant. Alcohol and other drugs affect brain functioning, result in direct injury to body tissue, are the cause of several thousand traffic fatalities each year, lead to addiction in some individuals, and can alter moods in a potentially harmful way.

The University desires and is prepared to help students and employees who have a drug- or alcohol-related problem. Students who ask for help will be treated through the Counseling Center rather than through the disciplinary process, in most circumstances. Similarly, employees seeking assistance will be provided with access to substance abuse programs, community resources for assessment and treatment, and counseling. Confidential assistance is available through Counseling Services. The University will also refer students to off-campus treatment centers if requested or if the issues being addressed warrant such referral.

For additional information on resources available, students should contact the Engle Center.


In April of 2016, Pennsylvania became the latest state to legalize the use of medical marijuana. However, because the Federal government has not legalized marijuana, it remains a banned substance under federal law. Messiah University receives federal funding through such things as student financial aid. To avoid losing federal funding, Messiah University must prohibit all marijuana use, including medical marijuana. Therefore, if you are prescribed medical marijuana, it is important that you promptly disclose that information so that we can discuss how to proceed. Students with a medical marijuana prescription must first meet with the Office of Disability Services and provide documentation of medical conditions as well as prescription information to discuss possible accommodations. A list of guidelines will be provided to the student as a part of this discussion. Please be assured that your medical information is protected by FERPA and kept as confidential. Further, marijuana use while on campus, either with or without a prescription, is prohibited under any circumstances. Students found in possession, and/or using, and or distributing marijuana while on campus, even with a medical marijuana prescription card, will be subject to student disciplinary action and may have additional legal consequences.


The use of tobacco and tobacco-like products, including but not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, hookahs and e-cigarettes are prohibited at Messiah University during the tenure of a student’s active enrollment.