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Friday, November 12, 2010

Reducing the Vulnerability to Alcohol-Related Tragedies at the College or University: Deadly Errors and Essential Actions

Reducing the Vulnerability to Alcohol-Related Tragedies at the College or University: Deadly Errors and Essential Actions by Thomas A. Workman, Ph.D. , University of Houston-Downtown ( see link at:

 This article identifies errors that universities make as they attempt to correct alcohol problems. I think JMU has made some of these errors. For example, error #1 " Addressing alcohol consumption without addressing the environment that produces, encourages and profits from the behavior".  In the text it notes the following:

"By far, the most popular approach is education. These
programs focus on teaching students, through peers, trained staff,
or on-line programs, about moderation and risk protection
strategies. Though research conducted for the NIAAA report has
shown that there is no evidence of effectiveness among these
programs in reducing alcohol-related problems or campus drinking
rates by campuses who use this strategy alone, the vast majority of
campuses continue to use education as the center of their
prevention efforts."

  JMU's efforts have been heavily focused on educational efforts  and lacking in the area of policy change and consistent enforcement.  The lack of use of suspension by judicial affairs is a clear area that needs to change by  JMU in both  policy and enforcement.

     Also Error #2 " Attempting change without involving all stakeholders." The article defines stake holders as follows:

"A “stakeholder” is an individual (or group) who is affected by
or affects the environment in some way. In the campus-community,
this includes everyone who is directly involved in the alcohol
culture -- student leaders, club officers, housing staff, judicial officers,
Greek leaders and organizers, athletes, coaches, and athletic
promoters, campus and community police, campus medical and
health promotion staff, faculty, student activities staff, academic
advisors, administrators, community leaders, emergency room personnel,
detoxification center staff, bar owners, alcohol distributors,
servers and waitstaff, landlords, off-campus students, and neighborhood

 In reviewing the JMU web site and documents there is not a group that meets this definition. There is a group called the Community Coalition Alcohol Abuse but it has a very low profile on the web site and it does not seem to have much influence on the change process. 

Error 4 " Not providing infrastructure to sustain the effort."  JMU's efforts seem disjointed and not a sustained comprehensive planned effort. The article notes:

"Many experts estimate that it may take as long as two full cycles
of students before an institution sees significant change. Even when
change does occur, ongoing maintenance of the environment and
student behavior is critical. Rather than trying to sustain the same
energy and effort of the grant project, campuses must institutionalize
their efforts, building collaboration, communication, data collection,
and strategic responses into the existing infrastructure"

 The efforts at JMU have not become institutionalized and the data collection on the BASICS program is lacking. 


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