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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 15, 2015

For this week’s roundup we have the results of three new studies of the causes, prevalence, and consequences of binge drinking.

Brain Protein Appears to Block Binge Drinking

A brain protein called GIRK3 (a member of the “G protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium channel” (GIRK) family) may play an important role in moderating binge drinking in mice, according to researchers from The Scripps Research Institute. Based on evidence that the GIRK family can be directly activated by alcohol and the knowledge that the specific protein in question, GIRK3, modulates the effect of drugs such as GHB and cocaine, researchers removed GIRK3 in lab mice then exposed them to alcohol. They observed that the modified mice were more likely to drink to the point of intoxication when given access to ethanol for just two hours a day, a condition meant to mimic a human happy hour (or college party.) These results suggest one possible avenue for pharmaceutical research aimed at addressing binge drinking.

New Study Reveals where Binge Drinking is Most Prevalent

A new study published by the American Journal of Public Health reveals which American counties have the highest rates of binge drinking and heavy drinking amongst adults 21 and over. Heavy drinking, defined as more than two drinks a day for men and more than one a day for women, was most prevalent in Menominee County in Wisconsin, and least common in Madison County, Idaho. Binge  drinking, defined as more than 5 drinks for men and 4 for women in about 2 hours, was most common in Esmeralda County, Nevada, and least common in Hancock County, Tennessee, where just 2.4% of drinking-age adults partook in binge drinking. Overall, the areas with the highest rates of problem drinking and drinking in general were New England, the West coast, and northern parts of the West and Midwest. Click the link above to see maps of problem drinking by county.

Binge Drinking Permanently Damages Developing Brains

Finally, if anyone doubted the dangers binge drinking poses to college students, a new study confirms that the dangers of heavy drinking lie not just in reckless decisions and alcohol poisoning when a student is intoxicated, but also in damage done to the brain that will linger—permanently. Research conducted on lab rats suggests that binge drinking creates permanent, negative changes in the developing brain. Since brain development in humans continues into the mid-twenties, these findings have sobering implications for the consequences of college binge drinking. Rats given alcohol while still in rodent adolescence had impaired memory and learning ability.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, February 6, 2015

Dartmouth decides to ban hard alcohol and United Educators releases the results of their sexual assault study.

Dartmouth Bans Hard Alcohol

As part of a larger effort to address sexual assault by reforming Greek culture and the atmosphere of undergraduate social life, Dartmouth College has taken the more or less unprecedented step of banning hard liquor on campus. The ban will take effect when the spring semester starts on March 30 and will apply to any substance as strong or stronger than 15% alcohol. Other efforts include a four-year sexual violence prevention training program and self-imposed reforms of the Greek system.

The United Educators Report

Independent risk management and insurance firm United Educators recently released the results of a study of 305 sexual assault claims filed by 104 colleges and universities between 2011 and 2013. Their report has yielded a number of significant results of interest to anyone who follows the issue of campus sexual assault. United Educators found that of the 305 reported sexual assault cases, around 75% were investigated and 45% of those investigations led to the alleged perpetrator being found responsible. Other findings include the sanctions resulting from investigations where the perpetrator was found responsible and the link between the nature of an assault and the severity of the sanctions it resulted in:

More than four-fifths (82 percent) of expulsion sanctions were for perpetrators who either took advantage of a victim’s incapacitation or used physical force. Disciplinary probation and lesser sanctions were most often imposed by institutions when the sexual assault involved failed consent.

 

 

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, January 23, 2015

This week we have an editorial revealing that American universities are not the only ones with a sexual assault problem, and two new and potentially innovative tactics for addressing the issue in this country.

Britain Has a Problem with College Sexual Assault Too

If you thought campus sexual assault was a uniquely American problem, this editorial from British professor Nicole Westmarland makes it brutally clear that college campuses across the pond have just as much if not more of a problem with sexual violence. In fact, Professor Westmarland cites statistics even more shocking and perturbing than the ones familiar to us from American studies. According to a poll conducted by The Telegraph, 1 in 3 British female college students experience sexual assault. 97% of sexual assault victims do not report their assault to the university, and 44% said they did not report their assault because they believed the university would do nothing about the violence. Westmarland points to these statistics as an indictment of a higher education culture that she believes would prefer to sweep these problems under the rug rather than discuss and address them. Perhaps encouragingly (at least for Americans) she points to current efforts being taken to address sexual violence on this side of the Atlantic as a model for British universities looking to fight back against campus rape.

Could Sorority Ragers Help Fight Sexual Assault?

Alcohol-fueled fraternity parties have been the setting for numerous high-profile sexual assault cases. Alcohol-fueled sorority parties have not, probably because, by and large, such events do not exist. Now, some female students are wondering whether they should, suggesting not only that a party hosted by a sorority might not pose the same risks as one hosted by a fraternity, but that such events could decrease the overall danger of sexual assault on campus. The theory goes that drinking in a setting where women are in control—of who can and cannot be in their house, of the flow of alcohol, and of their own ability to go upstairs and lock the door at any time—would reverse a power dynamic that at fraternities contributes to the prevalence of sexual assault. Critics of this logic point out that sororities rarely host parties for good reasons, which include the cost of insurance and potential damage to property that generally belongs to a national organization. Furthermore, they suggest that providing yet another venue for excessive drinking may be exactly the wrong strategy for combating a problem closely linked to excessive alcohol consumption.

How Can Taxes and Marijuana Fight Sexual Assault?

Curbing excessive drinking is the heart of the tactic suggested by this piece from New York Magazine. However, author Annie Lowrey suggests a novel tool in the seemingly age-old (and often futile) efforts by schools and government to cut down on students’ drinking: taxation. According to Lawrey, “Study after study has shown that ‘higher prices or taxes were associated with a lower prevalence of youth drinking.’” She posits that increased taxation of alcohol, and especially of alcohol sold in close proximity to college campuses, will lead to decreased drinking and, as a result, a decrease in sexual assaults. The second, more controversial bonus suggestion? That legalizing marijuana could similarly decrease student drinking and thus assaults. According to Lowrey, “there is some evidence that young people tend to substitute pot for alcohol.” Drawing on evidence that cannabis use reduces the likelihood of violent behavior, while drinking increases it, Lowrey suggests that making marijuana more widely available could decrease the risk of assault on college campuses.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, January 16, 2015

This week’s roundup includes new PSAs against domestic violence, the disturbing results of a survey on sexual assault, and UVA’s new rules for fraternities and sororities.

The NFL and No More

If you’re a football fan there’s a good chance you’ve seen PSAs from the public awareness campaign No More. No More aims to raise awareness about and work against sexual violence, including both domestic violence and sexual assault. Now the campaign is reaching one of America’s biggest audiences with PSAs featuring NFL players, run during NFL games. The partnership arose out of the NFLs attempts to rehabilitate their image in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal, an incident that called the league’s commitment to working against sexual violence into serious question. While most of the spots feature players reiterating the message of “no more,” as in “No more ‘we don’t talk about that’,” or “No more ‘boys will be boys’,” many feel that the most powerful of the No More PSAs is the “Speechless” series, unplanned pieces filmed as players prepared, and sometimes struggled, to talk about sexual violence.

Would 1/3 of College Men Commit Rape if They Could Get Away With It?

The alarming answer to that question is yes, according to a recently published survey. When asked if they would have “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse” if “nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences,” 32 percent of the study’s participants answered yes. When asked if they would have “any intentions to rape a woman” that number dropped to 13.6%, a result with the disturbing implication that many men do not consider “forcing a woman to sexual intercourse” to be a definition of rape. Perhaps unsurprisingly, willingness to commit rape, no matter how the crime was described, correlated with hostile attitudes towards woman and viewpoints that, according to the study, “objectify women and expect men to exhibit sexual dominance.”

UVA’s New Greek Policy

In the wake of the now-discredited Rolling Stone article that alleged a brutal gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity, UVA has rolled out new rules for their Greek organizations aimed at curbing the threat of sexual assault. In an agreement fraternities and sororities must sign before resuming activities, the school lays out strict rules for drinking at Greek events. These rules include the requirement that beer must be served in closed containers and that hard alcohol can only be served if the organization hires a bartender. While some people have applauded the new focus on safety and preventing sexual assault, others argue that reducing drinking is the wrong approach. These critics argue that putting the focus on college drinking amounts to blaming victims of assault for the violence perpetuated against them.  Others question the efficacy of the new rules, pointing out that the legal drinking age of 21 is widely flouted on campus, and questioning whether the university will work to enforce the rules it is introducing. Two fraternities at UVA have already refused to sign the new agreement, arguing that it “may create new liability for individual members of our organizations that is more properly a duty to be borne by the university itself.”

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Free Substance Abuse Prevention Posters
Posted by On Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Not Everyone Binge DrinksHelp prevent substance abuse on your campus with these posters from the design team behind our award-winning online training program Think About It.

These posters raise awareness about the risks of using alcohol and marijuana by addressing widely-held myths about each substance.

“Weed is Not Safe for Everyone” debunks the widespread and false belief that using marijuana is a universally safe and positive experience. This poster highlights statistics regarding the frequency of negative reactions to marijuana consumption, giving students the facts to more accurately assess the consequences of using cannabis.

Similarly, studies have shown that college students consistently overestimate how often and how much their peers drink. “Not Everyone Binge Drinks” counteracts the potentially dangerous perception that “everyone else is doing it” by providing students with the most reliable figures available on the prevalence of on-campus binge drinking.

Download the posters here:

  1. Weed is Not Safe for Everyone
  2. Not Everyone Binge Drinks
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Party Smart 21st Birthday Card
Posted by On Tuesday, June 10, 2014

As part of our continuing effort to help you help students with free downloadable resources on our blog, today we’re publishing a creative resource generously shared with us by the University of San Francisco. USF’s Talk About It 21st Birthday Card is a clever way of raising awareness about safe drinking strategies among students who will be drinking (or at least drinking legally) for the first time. The card, which you can print out from the files below to send to your students, includes tips from the “Party Smart” section of our award-winning online training program Think About It, so that when students celebrate their milestone birthday with its newly gained freedoms (and accompanying responsibilities), they’ll be ready to do so safely and responsibly.

  1. Generic Party Smart 21st Birthday Card PDF
  2. Customizable Party Smart 21st Birthday Card Word Document
  3. Customizable Party Smart 21st Birthday Card Adobe Illustrator File

We’ve included not only a PDF of a generic card, but also a Word document and the original Adobe Illustrator file, so that you can customize the card with your school’s name, school colors, emergency services contact information, and anything else you want to add to this informative and important birthday greeting.

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Free Drinking and Campus Culture Workshop
Posted by On Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Our Drinking and Campus Culture Workshop is now freely available on the CampusClarity blog, just click on the links to the materials below:

  1. PowerPoint
  2. Discussion Guide
  3. Handout
  4. Handout Answer Key
  5. Assessment
  6. Assessment Answer Key

Studies show that students consistently overestimate how much and how often their peers drink. Such misperceptions can encourage students to drink more by distorting their views of healthy drinking habits and lending dangerous credence to the classic justification for reckless or unhealthy behavior: “Everyone else is doing it.”

The Drinking and Campus Culture Workshop is one hour of live training that not only helps correct these misperceptions and explores their consequences, but also challenges students to find their own ways to correct such misinformation on their own campuses.

If you like this workshop and want more like it, check out our Bystander Intervention Workshop and our Party Smart Workshop.

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Free Party Smart Workshop
Posted by On Wednesday, May 7, 2014

As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month we made our Bystander Intervention workshop freely available here on the CampusClarity blog. That workshop was so well received that we’ve decided to publish another one on Partying Smart strategies. Like the Bystander Intervention workshop, the Party Smart Workshop includes a PowerPoint, handout, assessment, and discussion guide.

Download the materials here:

  1. Party Smart TAI PPT
  2. Party Smart Discussion Guide
  3. Party Smart Handout
  4. Party Smart Handout_Answer Key
  5. Party Smart Assessment
  6. Party Smart Assessment_Answer Key

The Party Smart Workshop focuses on strategies for safe, smart drinking. While total abstention is an effective strategy for many students (surveys show that over 20% of college students have never used alcohol at all), some students do choose to drink. That’s why it’s important that students learn strategies for responsible drinking.

These materials cover crucial information about alcohol and its effects on the body, outline effective strategies for safe drinking, and challenge students to formulate their own plans for partying smart. Please feel free to use them however you see fit, and to share them with anyone you think could make good use of them.

We’ll be releasing more materials in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more free resources!

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Think About It at NASPA 2014
Posted by On Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Next week the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) will be holding their annual conference in Baltimore. We’re excited to announce that Peter Novak, Vice Provost for Student Life at USF, is coordinating a presentation on Think About It at 10 am on Monday, March 17th.

Think About It is a comprehensive online training program that we developed in collaboration with USF to help schools reduce sexual violence and substance abuse. The course won the 2014 Gold NASPA Excellence Award for Violence Education and Prevention.

The session is called “Beyond Compliance: a comprehensive, interactive, and engaging campus-wide alcohol/drugs and sexual violence prevention curriculum.” The presenters include Carol Day, the director of Health Education Services at Georgetown University, Cori Planagan, the director of orientation at the University of Idaho, and Deeqa Mohamed, a Student Peer Educator at USF.

They will discuss their experiences integrating Think About It into a diverse range of campus prevention programming, covering topics from digital peer mentoring and social norming to creating community partnerships.

Ultimately, Think About It and our follow-up courses should augment a larger set of ongoing campus initiatives. That’s why we’ve been developing materials alongside USF — such as workshop guides and posters — to help schools move beyond compliance with the SaVE Act and Title IX to encourage deeper student engagement with the issues of sexual violence and  substance abuse.

As we hope this presentation will show, the online courses themselves, with their rich media interactions and compelling stories, also provide administrators with invaluable tools for engaging their students in innovative ways.

For instance, we’ve talked to residence hall advisers who use the BAC Apparatus during orientation to lead conversations with incoming students about smart drinking. We’ve also talked to first-years who have used the videos and stories as touchstones for their own discussions about these important issues.

If you miss the presentation, we will also be hosting a poster session on Tuesday from 9 to 10:15 as well as running a booth in the exhibit hall.

We’re excited about the opportunity to share more at the presentation. We hope you will join us.

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What is Binge Drinking?
Posted by On Friday, February 14, 2014

Generally speaking there is no one measure of binge drinking — also known as heavy episodic drinking or beuverie express in French.

In the US, however, the most widely circulated definition is the “5/4 measure,” which defines binge drinking as consuming 5 drinks in a row for men or 4 drinks in a row for women. Confusingly…”in a row” can be replaced with, alternatively, “in one sitting,” “on one occasion,” or even “in two hours,” depending on whom you’re talking to.

Proponents of this definition, including The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA), argue that the 5/4 cutoff is important because students who drink at that level are at greater risk for experiencing alcohol-related problems than their non-binging compatriots.

Opponents, meanwhile, argue that focusing on college binge drinking vastly overstates the drinking problem on campuses to the detriment of harm-reduction programming. (more…)

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