Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

W. Richard Fossey


The purpose of this study was to explore the evolution of the legal concept of legal liability of higher education institutions for alcohol-related injuries using a theoretical framework provided by tort law. The analysis was designed to provide a greater understanding of how and why the law concerning this concept has evolved. In addition to a legal analysis, interviews were conducted with student affairs administrators at institutions participating in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation "A Matter of Degree: Reducing High-Risk Drinking Among College Students" program. Particular attention was given to the influences identified by the student affairs administrators as catalysts for change. The study also explored the history of legal liability for alcohol-related injuries and how the concept of legal liability for alcohol related injuries had evolved over time. Findings of the study showed that: (a) potential for tort liability is an influence in alcohol use policy formulation, but residential life needs and the university president were greater influences; (b) the creation of a positive learning environment and a safe campus were the primary goals of the creators of the campus alcohol use policies researched; (c) the Greek system was a concern of all student affairs administrators and the approach to management of the various Greek systems varied among institutions; and (d) the evolution of tort liability for alcohol-related injuries appears to be continuing away from the bystander era represented by Bradshaw v. Rawlings, (1979) and toward a duty of reasonable care established by Furek v. University of Delaware, (1991) and Knoll v. Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, (1999). The relevant cases analyzed indicate a need for well thought out alcohol use policies that provide a safe campus, but do not extend a university beyond its ability to reasonably implement the adopted policies.