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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Friday classes and better enforcement of disciplinary actions.

The NIAAA report, "A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges" notes some policy changes that JMU could make to impact the negative alcohol culture. Requiring Friday classes and exams are ways to curtail the Thursday night drinking tradition at JMU. Anther area that needs improvement is enforcement of disciplinary actions as highlighted below.  (see link for full report: http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/NIAAACollegeMaterials/TaskForce/TaskForce_TOC.aspx)

Tier 3: Evidence of Logical and Theoretical Promise, But Require More Comprehensive Evaluation

The Task Force recognizes that a number of popular strategies and policy suggestions make sense intuitively or have strong theoretical support. Many also raise researchable questions that may be crucial in reducing the consequences of college student drinking. Although the Task Force is eager to see these strategies implemented and evaluated, it cautions interested schools to assemble a team of experienced researchers to assist them in the process.
The Task Force recommends that schools considering any of these strategies incorporate a strong evaluation component to test their viability in actual practice. Every strategy that appears below targets the student population as a whole.
"Excessive student drinking contributes to failed academic performance ranging from missed classes to attrition. At the same time, many colleges and universities unwittingly help create a culture of student drinking by scheduling no classes on Friday, thereby creating three-day weekends, and by grade inflation which tolerates and even rewards minimal student performance."
Susan Resneck Pierce, President
University of Puget Sound

Strategy: Adopting campus-based policies and practices that appear to be capable of reducing high-risk alcohol use. The following activities are particularly appealing because straightforward and relatively brief evaluations should indicate whether they would be successful in reducing high-risk drinking on a particular campus.
  • Reinstating Friday classes and exams to reduce Thursday night partying; possibly scheduling Saturday morning classes.
  • Implementing alcohol-free, expanded late-night student activities.
  • Eliminating keg parties on campus where underage drinking is prevalent.
  • Establishing alcohol-free dormitories.
  • Employing older, salaried resident assistants or hiring adults to fulfill that role.
  • Further controlling or eliminating alcohol at sports events and prohibiting tailgating parties that model heavy alcohol use.
  • Refusing sponsorship gifts from the alcohol industry to avoid any perception that underage drinking is acceptable.
  • Banning alcohol on campus, including at faculty and alumni events.
Strategy: Increasing enforcement at campus-based events that promote excessive drinking (DeJong and Langenbahn, 1996; Gulland, 1994). Campus police can conduct random spot checks at events and parties on campus to ensure that alcohol service is monitored and that age identification is checked. It may be important for non-students to enforce these campus policies. Resident assistants and others charged with developing close supportive relationships with students might find it difficult to enforce alcohol-related rules and regulations consistently and uniformly.

Strategy: Increasing publicity about and enforcement of underage drinking laws on campus and eliminating "mixed messages." As indicated previously, active enforcement of minimum legal age drinking laws results in declines in sales to minors (Grube, 1997; Lewis et al., 1996; Preusser et al., 1994; Wagenaar et al., 2000). Lax enforcement of State laws and local regulations on campus may send a "mixed message" to students about compliance with legally imposed drinking restrictions. Creative approaches are needed to test the feasibility of this strategy (DeJong and Langford, 2002).
"We dare not let alcohol blemish your bright promise."
Thomas K. Hearn, Jr., President
Wake Forest University
in a letter to incoming first-year students

Strategy: Consistently enforcing disciplinary actions associated with policy violations (DeJong and Langford, 2002). Inconsistent enforcement of alcohol-related rules may suggest to students that "rules are made to be broken." To test the effectiveness of this approach would likely require staff and faculty training, frequent communication with students, and the implementation of a research component.

Strategy: Conducting marketing campaigns to correct student misperceptions about alcohol use (Berkowitz, 1997; Clapp and McDonnell, 2000; DeJong and Linkenbach, 1999; Johannessen et al., 1999; Page et al., 1999; Perkins, 1997, 2002; Perkins and Wechsler, 1996). On the basis of the premise that students overestimate the amount of drinking that occurs among their peers and then fashion their own behavior to meet this perceived norm, many schools are now actively conducting "social norming" campaigns to correct many of these misperceptions.

Strategy: Provision of "safe rides" programs (DeJong, 1995). Safe rides attempt to prevent drinking and driving by providing either free or low-cost transportation such as taxis or van shuttles from popular student venues or events to residence halls and other safe destinations. Safe rides are usually restricted to students, faculty, staff, and a limited number of "guests." Safe rides sponsors often include student government, Greek Councils, student health centers, campus police, Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapters, and other local community organizations, agencies, and businesses. They have been criticized as potentially encouraging high-risk drinking, and this possibly should be considered in design, promotion, and monitoring.

Strategy: Regulation of happy hours and sales (Toomey and Wagenaar, 2002). Happy hours and price promotions—such as two drinks for the price of one or women drink for free—are associated with higher consumption among both light and heavy drinkers. Research shows that as the price of alcohol goes up, consumption rates go down, especially among younger drinkers. Because many bars surrounding campuses attract students by promoting drink specials, restrictions on happy hours have the potential to reduce excessive consumption off campus. If colleges and universities have a licensed establishment on campus, drink specials could be prohibited or promotion of alcohol-free drinks and food specials could be encouraged. In nonlicensed settings on campus that serve alcohol, event planners could opt to limit the amount of free alcohol that is available and eliminate all self-service. Schools could also limit alcohol use to weekends or after regular class hours in an effort to separate drinking from activities more closely aligned with the core academic mission.

Strategy: Informing new students and their parents about alcohol policies and penalties before arrival and during orientation periods. There is some anecdotal evidence that experiences during the first 6 weeks of enrollment affect subsequent success during the freshman year. Because many students begin drinking heavily during this time, they may be unable to adapt appropriately to campus life. Alerting parents and students to this possibility early on (e.g., through preadmission letters to parents and inclusion of information in orientation sessions and in presidents' and student leaders' welcoming speeches) may help prevent the development of problems during this critical, high-risk period.

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