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College Drinking Prevention - Changing the Culture

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View From The President's Office: The Leadership Of Change

Setting-Specific Issues

While the organizational change factors discussed above are universal, each college and university will view and respond to them from the unique perspective of its setting and situation. Currently, it is an open question whether prevention intervention approaches work equally well in different campus settings. The appropriateness and effectiveness of implementation approaches may also be affected by setting-related differences, including public or private, 2-year or 4-year, and different student body sizes, geographic locations, local cultures, student populations (e.g., age, gender, ethnic and socioeconomic background) and social profile (e.g., active Greek system or none, high-profile athletic program or limited sports).

For example, California State University at Bakersfield has limited problems with alcohol. According to President Arcienega, setting-related factors may largely be responsible. "We are a commuter school, with an ethnically diverse population, mostly women who are first generation college attendees," he describes. "Because we have only about 225 residential students, we have no real active Greek system. We also have a very positive community situation, in that we have a legal mandate to review all development proposals within a nine-mile surrounding area, and particularly within the one-mile, high-impact zone. So we have very few bars in the area, which makes our alcohol-free campus easier to maintain. In addition, the Bakersfield community has traditionally supported efforts to avoid college drinking problems that could affect their environment."

In sharp contrast, the University of Vermont is located in one of the heaviest drinking States in the country, and the campus is surrounded by 120 community bars. Former President Ramaley likens the situation to "being in a corral in the wild west." In southern Louisiana, where Louisiana State University is located, the alcohol culture is pervasive. Chancellor Jenkins notes that, "Our students come to us from an environment in which alcohol is central to social life. Mardi Gras, tailgating parties, a strong alcohol industry, and students who have been drinking since age 12 are the backdrop for our harm reduction efforts."

What implementation issues do presidents and administrators see related to setting differences? "Having older students who are commuters represents a different problem at Dominguez Hills than I faced at Jackson State," President Lyons notes. "It's not so much a quality of life issue for us as it can be an educational issue. If our students are having problems with alcohol, they go home and punch their own walls, not ours. But we need to identify and refer such students to counseling or treatment, because drinking problems can have an impact on our educational mission."

Other interviewees felt that it was more difficult for presidents and administrators at large universities to be as directly involved in implementing alcohol efforts as those at smaller schools. Communication systems disseminating alcohol messages must also be different. Dr. Carothers pointed out that State schools have an advantage over private schools in implementing tough policies in that they are tied more closely to State law and can involve State troopers in enforcing it.

At Ohio State, the sheer numbers of students and community members complicates dealing with "football Saturdays," which are a regular source of alcohol-related problems despite an alcohol-free stadium policy. "As a large school with a nationally prominent football program, we're a magnet for all types of people around the community and even the State," President Kirwan says. "Alcohol retailers around the university and the stadium are plentiful, and alcohol is very easily accessible. However, as a large institution with a very supportive Board of Directors we also have some advantages. For example, our board has given us the resources to change our retail environment. With the support of the city, we've bought four blocks on our eastern boundary that had a heavy concentration of bars and liquor stores. With the help of the private sector, we're doing an exciting renovation to offer cafes and bookstores and restaurants that will be a positive place for students to spend time and a good neighbor for the university."

Implementation-Related Elements of a Successful Alcohol Program
  1. Support from the top (i.e., the president, trustees)
  2. Commitment to a permanent program
  3. Shared ownership among a full range of campus constituencies, including students and faculty
  4. High visibility and clear goals
  5. A prevention program staff
  6. Programs tailored to the needs of a specific campus
Adapted from: Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, 1997

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Last reviewed: 9/23/2005


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