A Final Word
The concerns expressed by the members of the Task Force on College Drinking reflect the concerns of college presidents, students, parents, and college communities nationwide about the consequences of high-risk student drinking. The culture of drinking on contemporary college campuses is antithetical to the culture of learning, which is the core of higher education.
As the information in this report clearly demonstrates, the fallout from excessive consumption does not discriminate. It threatens the health and safety of all students, disrupts the academic process, frustrates faculty, and disturbs the lives of those in adjacent communities. Yet the experience of a growing number of colleges and universities offers new hope for changing the culture of drinking and reducing its negative consequences. We believe the combination of vigorous leadership, institutional resolve, and campus-community partnerships can make a difference.
Improvements in research methodology also enhance understanding of effective prevention strategies, so that schools can begin to design programs that suit their needs. At the same time, there is increasing recognition that high-risk drinking is not a neatly bounded phenomenon that can be addressed solely within the borders of the college or university. It frequently begins in high school, is sustained by a combination of campus and community conditions, and follows a course affected by an array of personal, behavioral, biological, and genetic as well as social and environmental factors.
For this reason, the Task Force recommends a multidimensional approach to college student drinking that acknowledges these diverse but intersecting influences. It also recommends that schools commit to using research-based strategies in developing their programs and emphasize evaluation as an important priority.
Despite the advances that have been made, there is little evidence of effectiveness available for many of the most appealing prevention strategies identified in this report. Because ideas and data fuel the intellectual life on campus, the Task Force encourages colleges and universities to work collaboratively with NIAAA and the research community in planning and assessing those strategies. School presidents who served on the Task Force observed that it is difficult to mobilize staff and direct their energy to implementing programs of uncertain efficacy. Results from carefully conducted evaluations will enable presidents to allay those concerns and ensure administrators, faculty, and students that they are investing in strategies with proven value.
Although there are no easy answers to high-risk college drinking, there is reason for optimism. More educators at the college/university and, as important, secondary school levels are acknowledging the existence of a problem. Researchers are discovering new approaches for responding, and communities are becoming aware of their vital role in prevention. Through committed collaborative efforts grounded in research and supported by institutional leadership, the Task Force is convinced that the culture of drinking at U.S. colleges and universities can be changed.
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Last reviewed: 9/23/2005