Ole Miss works to rehabilitate its 'party school' reputation

Ole Miss Works To Rehabilitate It's "Party School" Reputation

(WMC-TV) – Another wild night in the Mid-South was caught on camera. Now, Oxford police and Ole Miss counselors are saying the party is over.

When most small towns are closing up shop, things are just warming up on Oxford's downtown square.

Oxford Police Chief Mike Martin says after any big football game, the view of the square from the police department's surveillance cameras resembles Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

"The alcohol may change the atmosphere the later in the night that you go," said Chief Martin.

Most of the revelers are students from the University of Mississippi, which is often labeled one of America's top party schools.

"College to me meant being out from under mom and dad's eye so that was something I looked forward to," said a student who wanted to remain anonymous.

The freedom to party led the Ole Miss student to rehab after her freshman year at Ole Miss.

"When you get to a point where you are drinking or using drugs to feel normal, you know that's not normal," she said.

For many college students, drinking is the norm. And many recovering addicts cannot maintain sobriety on a college campus.

"I came back right after I got sober and you know you feel like you're the only person walking around with this problem," the student who came back to Ole Miss following rehab.

Today, Ole Miss is helping students stay sober and get their degree.

The university's Collegiate Recovery Community offers support and counseling from the stress of peer pressure, academics and financial burdens.

"There's no reason why your being in recovery should keep you from getting a college degree," said Amy Fisher, University of Mississippi Collegiate Recovery Community.

Amy Fisher is the self-proclaimed den mother to students recovering from addiction.

"Students who are in college and in recovery face a really unique set of circumstances," said Fisher.

She says traditionally the recovery industry has recommended that people in early recovery not attend college. She wants students to know that there is support at Ole Miss and they are entitled to their education just like everyone else.

It is all part of the university's effort to curb substance abuse on campus and perhaps even shed their party school image.

It is a crackdown that is actually creating new problems off campus.

The party has migrated to the downtown square.

Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson says there has been an increase in late night vandalism in Oxford neighborhoods.

"There is a mindset of a type of power drinking that, I'll be honest with you, we haven't seen before," said Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson.

And drinking on the square is a bargain on most budgets.

"I don't think it's all the bars' fault. I'll bet 90 percent of the freshman and sophomores have fake I.D.'s," said Mayor Patterson.

This party atmosphere that dates back decades creates a unique challenge for students determined to stay sober.

"It is a different ball game when you're dealing with school and sobriety versus a job and sobriety. It's completely different," said the student in recovery.

But now the Collegiate Recovery Community offers hope in the face of temptation born out of an age old Oxford tradition.

"It's a comfort to know I'm not the only person walking on this campus who's struggling with recovery from drug and alcohol abuse," said the student in the recovery program.

The Collegiate Recovery Community is in its third year at Ole Miss.

The community is not a rehab center, but instead a recovery program for students post-treatment.

The university is happy to report all of its participants are on track to graduate.

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