ERIC Identifier: ED308802
Publication Date: 1989-00-00
Author: Eddy, Margot Sanders
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Higher Education Washington DC.
College Alcohol Programs. ERIC Digest.
Alcohol use and abuse on campus is a major issue for college administrations.
Concern has been increasing in recent years because of widespread abuse of
alcohol in the college population and because of alcohol-related tragedies
within campus communities. Changes in the legal drinking age in many states and
possible institutional liability for alcohol-related incidents now place
additional pressure on college administrators.
Both individually and collectively, institutions are responding to this
challenge through carefully structured, comprehensive policies and through
educational programs. So far, however, the problem has outdistanced the
response. According to BACCHUS (Boost Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the
Health of University Students), a college alcohol education program that now has
over 200 chapters in the United States and Canada, about 90% of all college
students are at least occasional drinkers. Other statistics are similarly
dramatic: 85% of college student car accidents and 80% of all college student
discipline cases are alcohol-related, and approximately 35% to 40% of college
dropouts leave school for alcohol-related reasons.
HOW HAVE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES RESPONDED TO CAMPUS
Individual campus initiatives have taken many forms, but most have
emerged as institutional policies regulating alcohol use on campus. The
enforcement of those policies, the treatment and referral services to support
existing policies, and actual efforts to prevent alcohol abuse have tended to
lag far behind. Most American students are not being educated about responsible
drinking and the dangers of abuse, although college authorities agree frequently
about the need for such instruction.
Unfortunately, of the programs that are in effect, some are less effective
than they might be. Experienced educators are recommending more subtle and
creative approaches that integrate alcohol education into courses in the regular
college curriculum, as appropriate to the age and psychological development
appropriate to the student.
CAN THE INSTITUTION BE HELD LIABLE?
While colleges and
universities have traditionally been entrusted with the welfare of their
students, the issue of legal liability for alcohol consumption and abuse is less
clearly defined. Institutions have not generally been held legally liable for
injuries resulting from student alcohol consumption (McLean 1987). The general
counsel for the American Council on Education cautions, however, that several
roles commonly played by colleges and universities are potential sources of
liability. These include the institution's position as supervisor of student
conduct, as a property owner, as seller of alcohol, and as "social host" (Steinbach 1985).
Medical schools must be especially careful. Any medical school without formal
policies concerning student impairment through alcohol abuse may be in violation
of federal and state guidelines by failing to provide adequate guidance about
professional conduct. Educators agree that both for the protection of student
health and safety and for risk management, a sound institutional policy is
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT CAMPUS ALCOHOL ISSUES?
presence of alcohol on campus raises a number of distinct but related issues.
Those directly pertaining to students include:
* What do students know about alcohol? What is their attitude toward alcohol
use, and what is their actual drinking behavior?
* Is the legal drinking age in fact known to students?
* What is the extent of education about responsible drinking?
* Is the campus an environment that supports responsible behavior?
* What is the quality of services provided to abusers?
Questions of institutional policy and administrative issues include:
* What are the regulations about alcohol use on campus?
* How are policies enacted and enforced?
* Is the relative emphasis on prevention or treatment?
* What is the policy regarding alcohol-related behavior among faculty or
* What is the legal responsibility of the institution and its administrators?
HOW SHOULD CAMPUS ALCOHOL POLICIES ADDRESS THESE
School policies concerning alcohol education and abuse should be
comprehensive, positive, carefully structured, consistent with institutional
educational goals, and based on the concepts of adult responsibility and freedom
of choice. According to the Inter-Association Task Force on Alcohol Issues,
which was created in 1982 by several national groups of college administrators,
a omprehensive policy should include a summary of state and local laws
concerning: the drinking age and penalties for its violation; sale and group
permits for events involving alcohol sales; open containers; and related issues,
including implied consent and dram shop regulations that establish civil
penalties against drinking establishments when patrons inflict damage on third
The Task Force also recommends that policies specifically regulate:
* the permissible locations for selling, possessing, serving, and consuming
alcoholic beverages on campus;
* events at which alcohol can be served within the institution's
* alcohol use or nonuse at membership recruitment functions, athletic
facilities, or athletic events;
* alcohol marketing, advertising, or promotion on campus or at campus events;
* the adjudication of violations of school policy (Sherwood 1987).
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Comprehensive efforts to address this
problem have evolved as institutions, organizations, college students, and
regulatory agencies have formed networks or coalitions to develop awareness of
alcohol abuse and specific interventions. In 1982, the Inter-Association Task
Force on Alcohol Issues initiated BACCHUS, and in 1986, Congress lent support to
these efforts by passing the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act.
In 1987, the Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and
Improvement called for a network linking the Department, institutions, and major
national organizations. The resulting Network of Colleges and Universities
Committed to the Elimination of Drug and Alcohol Abuse collects and disseminates
information about successful programs, provides a forum for continuing
collaboration, and identifies areas for further research and development. Its
members have indicated their commitment to establishing and enforcing clear
policies; to educating the campus community; to creating an environment that
promotes and reinforces healthy, responsible living; and to providing a
reasonable level of care for abusers in the form of counseling, treatment, and
The Network of Colleges and Universities Committed to the Elimination of Drug
and Alcohol Abuse has established as criteria for membership that each
1. develop policy addressing both individual behavior and group activities;
2. actively disseminate its policies within the school community;
3. define policy jurisdiction to include all campus property and
4. stipulate policies for alcohol marketing and for hosting campus events;
5. articulate the institutional commitment to educating students, faculty,
and staff regarding alcohol and other abused substances.
The Network of Colleges and Universities also has extended its commitment
beyond institutional policy formation by requiring that its members uphold
standards of alcohol education and policy enforcement and by insisting they
monitor their own progress in promoting responsible behavior regarding substance
Alcohol use on campus poses a considerable
challenge for colleges and universities. Administrators face the multiple tasks
of regulating its use, educating the campus community about its potential
dangers, encouraging healthy behavior, and providing adequate referral or
treatment services for constituents who need them. Failure to achieve these
goals might jeopardize the health, safety, and education of individual students
and render institutions and administrators legally vulnerable.
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"Approaches to Drug Abuse Prevention at Colleges and Universities: A Collection of Presentations Made at the National Collegiate Drug Awareness Week Kick-Off Conference." 1988. Office of Educational Research and Improvement. ED 299 938.
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