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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, February 27, 2015

For this week’s roundup we have a story about college binge drinking and two editorials with ideas about how to solve this seemingly intractable problem.

Today’s Entering Freshmen Less Likely to Drink than Their Parents Were

So say the latest results of UCLA’s annual American Freshman Survey, which the university has conducted for almost 50 years. Of the incoming freshmen surveyed, just 33.5% said they drank beer, and 38.7% said they often drink wine or hard alcohol, down from 74.2% and 67.8% respectively in 1981. Similarly, the percentage of students who said they partied more than six hours a week fell from 34.5% in 1987 to 8.6% in 2014. Of course, these figures apply just to incoming college students, which is to say high school seniors. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism points out that these students are still likely to experiment with alcohol once they arrive one campus, except without the drinking experience older generations had at the start of their college careers.

Lower the Drinking Age to 18

Drinking experience for new college students is exactly what Elizabeth Glass Geltman proposes as a solution to college binge drinking and the many health problems associated with it. In this Huffington Post editorial, Geltman argues that one way to handle the problem is to lower the legal drinking age to 18, the legal drinking age when she herself attended Dartmouth (which recently banned hard alcohol on campus). She contends that lowering the legal drinking age would take college drinking out of the shadows and give parents and universities the chance to legally mentor students in safe, responsible alcohol consumption, pointing to university-sponsored events that served alcohol as examples of how she learned to party smart.

Make Binge Drinking Uncool

A very different solution is proposed in this editorial from USA Today, which takes successful anti-tobacco campaigns as the model for anti-binge drinking efforts. According to USA Today’s editorial board, the best way to combat binge drinking is to replicate the success of anti-tobacco campaigns, which have managed to make smoking cigarettes socially taboo, with 88% of 19-22 year olds saying their friends would disapprove of a smoking habit. To replicate the same results with binge drinking the editorial advocates tougher enforcement of anti-drinking laws and policies, including more DUI checkpoints around campus and cracking down on the sale of alcohol to minors and underage drinking off campus, a strategy that produced positive results in a study of 14 large California public universities. According to the editorial such measures could cut down on the amount of drinking and begin the process of a cultural shift that would make excessive drinking as uncool as a pack a day.

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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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Free Party Smart Poster
Posted by On Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Party Smart GuideFinals are here. As students gear up for their end of term exams, they may also be planning to party down when they’re done. And other students may be looking forward to a last hurrah this weekend before finals officially start.

This Party Smart poster, based on Think About It and developed at the University of San Francisco by Jennifer Waryas, provides a convenient resource to help students make safe decisions about drinking.

The “Safe Party Guide” offers students tips for before, during, and after a party. It covers everything from setting a limit to using the buddy system, giving students a checklist to follow before they go out. It is perfect for dorm hallways, bulletin boards, or bathrooms.

Download the poster by visiting our Talk About It Community page.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, September 12, 2014

Substance abuse is a persistent problem on college campuses. What role does brain chemistry play in young people’s vulnerability to alcohol and other drugs? These two articles suggest some answers.

Brain Chemistry and the Low Price of Drinks Drive College Binge Drinking

What is it that drives some college students to drink to excess again and again and again? This piece from NPR explains that there are multiple factors driving college binge drinking. One is brain chemistry. College-aged brains are still developing, so while the part of the brain that seeks reward and stimulation is fully mature by the time 18 year olds begin their freshman year, the bits that control impulsive behavior still have a ways to go. This imbalance is what makes taking too many shots or playing drinking games seem so appealing. The other big factor may seem more obvious, but is also more controllable. The lower the average price of a drink in an area, the more binge drinking is reported amongst local college students.

Adolescent Marijuana Use Correlates to “All Adverse Young Adult Outcomes”

A new study from the British journal The Lancet Psychiatry suggests that teenaged marijuana use correlates strongly to a variety of alarming outcomes. Teen pot-smokers were 60% less likely than peers to graduate from high school, 60% less likely to finish college, seven times more likely to attempt suicide and eight times more likely to use other illegal drugs than their non-smoking counterparts. Significantly, the authors found that even “low levels” of marijuana use (as infrequently as once per month) greatly increased teens risks of the aforementioned negative outcomes when compared to teens who did not smoke marijuana at all, suggesting that “there may not be a threshold where [cannabis] use can be deemed safe” for adolescents. With the legal landscape shifting quickly on the issue of marijuana possession and use, it seems clear that any legislative reforms must take pains to keep cannabis out of the hands of teen users.

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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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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 2, 2014

Substance abuse is not a new campus safety issue. However, the shape that challenge takes is always changing. This week we’re highlighting three stories about new trends in substance abuse that may very well suggest the challenges college administrators will face in the future.

Marijuana Vaporizers

Just as electronic cigarettes pose a new regulatory challenge, their cannabis cousins, vaporizers, pose an equal challenge to schools determined to curb drug use on campus. A vaporizer can be used to consume marijuana—it heats marijuana flowers or concentrates to around 350 degrees, not hot enough to burn but hot enough to vaporize the psychoactive chemical THC and produce a high every bit as potent as smoking from a joint or a pipe. These devices pose a unique problem for campus administrators. Vaporizers can be as small as a pen, and produce none of the tell-tale skunk-like odor associated with smoking marijuana. As a result, they are easy to use discreetly and hide. In fact, they are virtually indistinguishable from e-cigarettes. With the market for vaporizers growing at a pace usually associated with tech startups, colleges and universities trying to prevent students from getting high on campus will be hard-pressed to find a way to remove vaporizers from their grounds.

Powdered Alcohol

Similar problems are presented by the possibility of widely-available powdered alcohol, a concept that took one step closer to reality when the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued the federal approvals necessary for a product called Palcohol to be made and sold in the United States. While the TTB has since said that those approvals were issued “in error,” it’s not clear what that means for the future of Palcohol, and it’s possible that just-add-water margaritas and mojitos could still be coming soon to a liquor store near you, or your campus. Like vaporizers, powdered alcohol could pose a major challenge to schools determined to keep their campuses substance free—it’s not hard to imagine students sneaking small packets of powdered booze to school events in their pockets or bags and then adding them to the punch or water bottles. Powdered alcohol might pose other problems as well. It’s not yet clear what would happen if an intoxicated undergrad tried to snort a packet of Palcohol, or eat it straight, or add half the recommended amount of water, but preventing such scenarios might become a top priority for schools as soon as Palcohol can work out their differences with the TTB.

Heroin on Campus

While marijuana and alcohol are both well-known problems on college campuses (and the traditional focus of prevention programs), few schools consider hard drugs like heroin to be a major problem. Now, however, that’s starting to change, especially for schools located in areas where the use of heroin or other hard drugs is increasing in the larger population. Incidents such as the overdose death of a University of Rochester freshman are prompting administrators to begin expanding their prevention efforts to include hard drugs, a change one campus health center director has described as a “paradigm shift.”. New efforts include screening student patients for hard drug use and making resources available for addicts trying to beat an addiction.

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Why a Recent Court Ruling Forces Students to Rethink a Cover Charge
Posted by On Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Jessica Manosa, a 20-year-old college student, decided to throw a party at her parents’ empty rental home. She bought some booze, cups, and cranberry juice, hired a DJ, and even convinced a friend to play bouncer at the entrance. She told him to charge a few bucks to anyone he didn’t recognize. But once inside, guests could dance to the music and drink freely from the assortment of beer, tequila, and jungle juice. The money collected was used to buy more alcohol for the party.

At some point in the evening Thomas Garcia showed up with his friends. He was already so drunk that he was slurring his words. But he paid the cover charge, and so the bouncer let him inside.

Garcia continued to drink, and soon he and his friends became “rowdy, aggressive, and obnoxious.” They made obscene and threatening comments to women at the party, and at one point, he or a friend dropped his pants.

About this time, Andrew Ennabe, a friend of Manosa, confronted Garcia and crew and kicked them out of the party. As the unruly guests were escorted to their car, one of them spit at Ennabe. This prompted Ennabe to chase the expectorator into the street, but as Garcia drove away he struck Ennabe, killing him.

Ennabe’s parents sued Jessica Manosa and her parents for wrongful death.  On February 24, 2014, the California Supreme Court issued its opinion in Ennabe v. Manosa, concluding that Ennabe’s lawsuit against the Manosas should proceed to trial.

Under California law, generally social hosts who serve alcohol — even to a visibly intoxicated guest — are not liable for any resulting injuries or deaths caused by that person. The California Supreme Court explained this “immunity” applies because, “the consumption of alcohol, not the service of alcohol, is the proximate cause of any resulting injury.”

An exception to this rule, however, applies when someone “sells alcoholic beverages…to an obviously intoxicated minor.” Like Manosa herself, Garcia was under 21 and visibly drunk when he arrived.

But the question posed to the Court was this: did the small entrance fee Manosa charged mean she had “sold” Garcia the alcohol available inside?

Manosa protested that if the Court found her liable for Ennabe’s death, it would destroy the “social fabric of modern life.” The Court bluntly disagreed, “The assertion is exaggerated…in contrast to Manosa…ordinary social hosts do not use bouncers, allow uninvited strangers into their homes, or extract an entrance fee or cover charge from their guests. Nor does maintaining the social fabric of our society depend on protecting from civil liability those persons who would sell alcoholic beverages to minors who are already visibly intoxicated.”

The Court concluded that because Manosa charged an admission fee to her party, which the Court described as a “pop-up nightclub,” she sold alcohol to Garcia, and therefore could be liable for the death of Ennabe.

This ruling will have a profound effect on college parties where the hosts charge even a few bucks at the door. If they provide alcohol to an obviously intoxicated minor at the party, they might find themselves liable for resulting injuries caused or suffered by that drunken guest.

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Binge Drinking’s Social Power
Posted by On Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Students often describe alcohol as a “social lubricant” —  an easy way to feel less anxious and more talkative at parties and around new people. What they may not recognize, however, is alcohol’s symbolic (as opposed to pharmacological) role in college social life. (more…)

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