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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Campus and Community Environmental Scan and Assessment of Alcohol Programming and Services , James Madison University, Final Report, November 2007

Of the documents that I requested from JMU under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, this report is the most significant. I received a copy of the report on October 22, 2010.  The Environmental Scan report is the result of JMU hiring an independent consultant in 2007 to look at the alcohol problem at JMU.   The observations the consultants make are very similar to the concerns I have raised in my post.  To a very large extent it seems to me that JMU has not followed the recommendations of the consultant. Not following the recommendations also speaks to the need for an external entity with the power to compel  JMU to change its policy.  JMU had the data from the consultant since 2007 and have done little to implement change.  As the conclusion of the report states "There is no indication, without a seismic change in the current drinking policies, that the current resources will be effective in reducing alcohol related incidences." There has been no" seismic" change in alcohol policies at JMU.

Some of the highlights of the report for me are:
  • It is our belief that the students' behavior regarding the use of alcohol at JMU are very risky and are approaching dangerously high levels.  Data collected from the NCHA and Core Alcohol and Drug Survey reflect these risky patterns and related consequences. The most striking and consistent result of the environmental scan is because of its availability, lack of enforcement and social acceptance, alcohol is easy for JMU students to abuse.  This creates a "campus environment" that encourages excessive drinking. (page1)
  • There is a perception among many administrators, faculty, staff and community members that there is not a problem with student's use of alcohol.  From what we understand from NCHA, Core Alcohol and Drug Study and interviews conducted these perceptions are incorrect.  There are considerable "town-gown" opportunities for positioning JMU to address and educate the community about the effects alcohol is having on its campus. (B on page 4)
  • During our interviews with staff and senior leadership it became apparent that communication and understanding of the alcohol culture at JMU voids are prevalent and undermine JMU's ability to work seamlessly to implement creative policies to address the alcohol culture. There appears to be many "rumors" and "jokes" about the alcohol culture at JMU and this creates a dysfunctional relationship among some university staff and community members. (D on page 4)
  • There are no clearly defined policies and enforcement regarding the use and abuse of alcohol.  The ambiguities inherent in JMU's judicial and legal policies and procedures regarding alcohol have led to tension among community police, campus police and city officials and students.  As a consequence, students do not fear being fined or prosecuted for alcohol violations and contribute to the ongoing abuse. (F on page 4) 
  • During our visit, we heard multiple examples of inconsistent enforcement of alcohol related policies.  Interviewees reported that more times than not, students were not cited with an alcohol violation although strong evidence existed. Students also believed that the alcohol judicial and police processes allowed them to deny violating policies and that students "took turns taking a strike," to avoid further sanctions.  Several interviewees believed the use of preponderance and the "strike" policy created a culture that promoted and rewarded dishonesty.  In addition, several believed that the lack of consistent and stringent enforcement created an environment that promoted alcohol abuse. (H page 5) 
  • It is believed by numerous interviewees that campus administration is afraid to implement and enforce strict policies on alcohol use which may have a negative impact on satisfaction rates and potential financial contributions.  The unresolved perceptions of JMU's alcohol related incidences and the University's desire to maintain a high level of student, alumni and parental satisfaction raise serious questions about the preparedness of JMU to adopt a long-term plan that will address alcohol abuse issues (L page 5)
  • "...It is clear from our brief visit to JMU that current data recording practices are quiet inadequate to enable the nature and scale of alcohol related incidences to be assessed with any degree of accuracy.  This lack of reliable and valid data makes objective evaluation of initiatives aimed at the reduction of alcohol related problems very difficult.." (N page 6) 
  • Research and Conduct Comprehensive Study: "...Recommend that JMU research and conduct an extensive study to clearly define and determine the effects of alcohol related incidences on and off campus.  This study should include a complete inventory of existing alcohol programming and intervention strategies.  
  • Develop Systematic and Consistent Methods for Defining, Recording, Analyzing and Collection of Data for Alcohol Related Incidences. "...It is clear from our visit that enhancements to the present data collection are required if more meaningful conclusions concerning alcohol's negative impact on JMU's campus can be drawn.  
  • Develop an Inclusive Alcohol Prevention and Research Center: "JMU should consider developing an inclusive Alcohol Prevention and Research Center that has one organizational unit that will plan and guide a comprehensive alcohol abuse program. 
  • Review, Revise and Assess Police and Judicial Processes: "JMU should review and assess its police and judicial processes including establishing more stringent policies and sanctions regarding alcohol use and abuse. It is highly recommended that these policies be consistently and strongly enforced to create a culture where students understand there are consequences to their illegal use and abuse of alcohol." (page 14, 15 and 16)

Below is the main body of the report including the recommendations.( I left out the literature review part of the report).

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