The RWU Alcohol and Drug (AOD) Task Force, a group of students and staff, convened 13 months ago to assess and make recommendations on alcohol and drug policy at RWU. As a co-chair, I wanted to give you an update on the task force’s work and share with you some of the highlights of a recent conference I attended on AOD prevention. In January I attended the NASPA Strategies Conference 2008: Alcohol Abuse Prevention & Intervention in Tampa. The prevalence of alcohol abuse continues to be a serious problem facing college students throughout the country and this conference was geared for administrators to learn about best practices and recent research in the field. I attended numerous sessions on what systems, policies, and procedures are in place to sharpen institutional decision-making and policy development. Many sessions relayed a consistent message about ensuring that alcohol abuse prevention efforts are integrated throughout the institution and within the external community.
My confidence was raised to learn that the environmental strategy approach that the AOD Task Force uses to approach alcohol prevention and education at RWU is a recommended national best practice. This environmental approach involves changing the environment through education, policy and enforcement. Some of the comprehensive environmental strategies to reduce high risk drinking at RWU are providing consistent messages about alcohol and RWU policy, reducing high risk traditions, eliminating high risk promotions, limiting access and availability to alcohol, educating about policies and consequences, consistent enforcement of laws and policy and clearly integrating them into community standards.
In terms of education on campus, we held a session with new parents and freshman at orientation where the goal was to introduce new community members to our philosophy and expectations on AOD issues. We also mandated that all first year students take the primary prevention on line class called Alcohol Edu prior to move- in this fall. We began the year with educating students on our new quantity policy and student conduct sanctions at the first floor meetings of the semester. RA’s and Cores set expectations and discussed specific community standards to each living area. We also had a nationally known speaker during Welcome Week - Jim Mathews gave a dynamic presentation titled Beer, Booze and Books. Our Health and Wellness Educators (HAWE’s) are a group of students who gave alcohol educational presentations in the First Year Experience classes and in all residence halls. They also do social norming campaigns using campus newspaper advertising and activities such as a mock drunk driving arrest. The HAWE’s also send every student that is turning 21 a birthday card reminding them to celebrate it responsibly. During the Student Activities Fair in September students were exposed to alternative options to drinking and expanded late night programming options (late night recreation center hours, extended library hours, 10 Spot Alternative program, and all the clubs and organizations that plan the campus events. Lastly we offer one on one motivational interviewing for students who have been involved in the student conduct process due to alcohol incidents and we are the site for the Brown University research grant Project Assist that is studying the use of a stepped care approach in reducing alcohol use among college students.
Our task force has expanded its reach to developing relationships and partnerships with the Bristol, Portsmouth, and greater RI community. Members of the task force have attended town gown meetings to discuss town laws, regulations, and enforcement and joined town committees to discuss proactive measures to enhance both the town and RWU efforts.
The AOD task force meets bi-weekly and we are always open to feedback on our education and prevention efforts. This spring we will continue with ongoing assessment, conducting the Core Alcohol Survey in April and using the results for future strategic planning, research and evaluation. Our annual report to Vice President John King will be available on our web site for your review this spring.
Dr. Kathleen McMahon
Dean of Students and Co-chair of Alcohol and Drug Task Force
Dr. Jim Azar
Director of Counseling Center and Co-chair of Alcohol and Drug Task Force