"Allocate resources and high visibility space…Establish mechanisms that evaluate program implementation and effectiveness…Promote awareness of enforcement practices and consequences…Monitor extent and consistency of enforcement efforts."
Promising Practices: Campus Alcohol Strategies, 1998 (Anderson)
Another important consideration for college alcohol initiatives is aligning the organization's systems to support alcohol-related goals. Some examples include budget/resource allocation, information systems, and college policies and procedures, as well as elements already discussed in the "Structure" and "Staff/Skills" subsections.
The Presidents Leadership Group felt strongly that budgeting sufficient resources for alcohol programs is critical to success. However, they recognized that university finances can be tight and that finding resources could require long-term planning (Presidents Leadership Group, 1997). "It is a resource issue any time you elevate an issue to prominence," notes President Lyons. "Even if I don't hire new people, I am allocating resources by using the time of staff already on board." "If it's important, you find the resources," adds President Malloy.
Situations varied among those interviewed. Among schools where alcohol problems are limited (for example, universities whose students are primarily older than traditional college age and who commute to campus), resource requirements are manageable. Where a greater resource commitment is needed, schools used ad hoc financing mechanisms, regular budget procedures, and grant funding to meet their needs.
One approach is charging students for related services. For example, at the University of Vermont, alcohol education had been subsidized through the student health fee. As part of the new proactive strategy, the director of the Center for Health and Well-Being recently hired additional certified alcohol counselors and revised the alcohol curriculum. To recover related costs, she instituted a fee-for-service plan for those mandated to receive education and counseling because of alcohol-related infractions.
Ohio State University charges another alcohol-related constituency: alcohol sellers. "Many of our students wanted to have alcohol-free events, but our resources were limited," President Kirwan recalls. "We also needed more resources for alcohol education and staff training related to alcohol initiatives. So we created a fund dedicated to these needs by requiring all those who sell alcohol at any university function or facility to pay into the fund." Ohio State also found an industry partner for alcohol education. Coca-Cola, which has a 10-year contract with the university to provide soft drinks, is also funding a major new campus campaign to encourage responsible behavior and discourage alcohol abuse.
Alcohol-related policies are another "system" factor in efforts to reduce college drinking problems. Other background papers review the types of policies universities have enacted and what is known about their effectiveness. As an implementation issue, however, most institutions review and update their policies when they begin proactive new initiatives. David Williams, Vice-President for Student Affairs and Community Relations at Ohio State University, says that a critical first step at his school was compiling all the bits and pieces of related policy into one document. "We had elements of alcohol policy all over the place—in dormitory regulations, in judicial affairs, in security procedures," he notes. "Until we brought it all together, no one could really say what our existing policy was or envision what it ought to be now."
Once policies are in place, systems for enforcing them are also critical. The Presidents Leadership Group reported that lax enforcement of campus policies, local laws, and state minimum drinking age laws sends a mixed message to students and undermines program effectiveness (President's Leadership Group, 1997). Recognizing the importance of enforcement, the University of Rhode Island alcohol task force recommended a strict punitive program that requires fines and community service for the first two offenses and expulsion for the third.
Of course, enforcing policies and laws requires commitment and collaboration, often among stakeholders with competing agendas. President Pierce, for example, has enlisted the directors of the athletic department, student affairs, and security at the University of Puget Sound to review disciplinary policies and enforcement regarding drinking at university sports events. She is also trying to collaborate with the other schools in their athletic conference to promote uniformity of rules and their enforcement. As part of a cooperative effort with the local community, students who live off campus are now liable to disciplinary action for breaking university alcohol regulations. "This caused a big flurry of student concern and media attention at first, but it has died down," she reports. "While I think it is important to be consistent in our treatment of on- and off-campus students, we've had very few problems reported by neighbors or others in the community setting."
Perhaps no system is more important to overcoming student alcohol-related problems than information. Collecting and reviewing data is the only way to understand the nature and extent of problems, assess progress, improve efforts, maximize the use of resources, and be able to share experiences with others facing similar concerns. Another background paper in this series discusses evaluation issues and provides guidelines for presidents and administrators.
Among those interviewed, common approaches to getting needed information included completing the CORE survey initially and at regular intervals thereafter and systematically collecting data on indicators related to alcohol problems from the campus judicial system; on and off campus police; the student health center; local emergency rooms and detox centers; and local jails. Some schools also developed their own process-related and attitude surveys and conducted focus group discussions to determine attitudes of key constituencies to facilitate developing alcohol policies and initiatives that would be relevant to their needs and concerns.
"Now that the spotlight is on alcohol problems, we've asked those who keep the data to tell us whether alcohol is involved in the situations they report on, and whether it is a primary or secondary cause," Rick Culliton says. "We collect alcohol-related data monthly, when we used to do it annually, and we do separate reports broken out by gender and class year. This focus has increased the effectiveness of reporting systems and increased the number of reports we receive. As a result, we now know, for example, that we have had an increase in the number of suspensions from the university for alcohol-related offenses, a decrease in the overall number of judicial cases, and a decline in the overall number of alcohol-related offenses."
Another aspect of being informed is learning what is happening on other campuses with similar concerns. Some institutions have formed ongoing networks with other colleges and universities specifically to exchange alcohol-related information, or they raise alcohol issues before existing roundtable groups. At Ohio State, three different kinds of statewide public college and university councils provide opportunities for the President, Vice President for Student Affairs, and Wellness Director to interact with peers about alcohol problems and solutions. "Right now each school in my group is developing a brochure about what we are doing in alcohol education, policies, and parental notification," David Williams says. "We're all interested to see what the other schools are doing, and the State legislature has also expressed interest."
Information Systems: Network Assessment Standards
Network members shall…
Last reviewed: 9/23/2005