substance abuse

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, March 6, 2015

For this week’s roundup we have Grinnell’s unusual request to be investigated by the OCR and two stories related to a topic we’re particularly interested in: preventative training for sexual violence and substance abuse.

Grinnell Requests an OCR Investigation of Themselves

Grinnell College has made the unusual and perhaps unprecedented move of requesting that the OCR investigate their handling of sexual assault cases. According to a statement by Grinnell’s president, Raynard Kington, “If Grinnell has fallen short at any point, I want to know about it now, continue to address the problems, and make things right for our students.” Since then it has also been made known that the request came in anticipation of a now-published Huffington Post piece alleging mishandling of three sexual assault cases at Grinnell. According to a letter Kington sent to the campus, “We have specifically invited OCR to review the cases [The Huffington Post] has highlighted to us.” The student and faculty group Dissenting Voices, which believes Grinnell’s sexual assault policies are inadequate, has described the request as an “unprecedented attempt to preemptively control the framing of the issue,” pointing out that six students had already filed complaints with the OCR.

California SB 695 Would Mandate Sexual Violence Prevention Program for High School Students

Federal law (the Campus SaVE Act) already requires colleges and universities to offer sexual assault prevention training to incoming students, but SB 695 introduced last week would require California students to learn about sexual assault violence, and healthy relationships in high school health classes. The bill would further require health classes to teach the affirmative “yes means yes” definition of consent required for the state’s colleges and universities participating in state financial aid programs. Co-author of SB 695, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson says that it would “give students the skills they may need to navigate difficult situations, and prevent sexual assault before it occurs.”

Substance Abuse Training Must be Reinforced to be Effective

A new study suggests that the effects of  substance abuse training typically administered to college freshmen at or before the start of their college careers tend to wear off over in the course of the year. A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that a month after receiving alcohol education of any kind, 82% of students reported they were drinking less. However, a year later 84% of those same students reported they were drinking as much as they had at before the alcohol education. They also found that alcohol education was particularly effective for inexperienced drinkers and women. These findings suggest that reminding students how to party smart, through text messages, emails, or ongoing training, should be part of an effective prevention program.

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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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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, March 21, 2014

For the last several weeks we’ve been covering an ongoing national conversation about the dangers and advantages of Greek organizations on college campuses. This week, three stories illustrate the fact that the problems and dilemmas posed by Greek fraternities are not unique to that particular brand of student groups, or even the United States.

Black Fraternities’ Hazing Problem

Most of that ongoing national conversation has focused on fraternities that are largely white, heterosexual, and, naturally, entirely male. But of course there are sororities, as well as black, Asian, Latin, and various professional fraternities and sororities. These groups often face different problems than those faced by predominantly white fraternities, but that doesn’t mean that they are problem free, or should be ignored in a conversation about the dilemmas posed by student groups. A good example is provided by this story about hazing and black fraternities—since the beginning of 2014, more than 17 members of black fraternities at three different universities have been arrested for hazing.

Student Co-op’s Drug Problem

Nor are problems like substance abuse limited to student groups with the word “fraternity” or “sorority” at the end of their name. Take, for example, the latest bit of drama coming from U.C. Berkeley, this time out of its student cooperative system, the largest in the country. Cloyne Court, which is itself the largest housing co-operative in the country, recently settled a lawsuit brought by the family of resident John Gibson, who has been in a drug-induced coma since he overdosed while living at Cloyne in 2010. Faced with “unaffordably high” insurance rates, Berkeley Student Cooperative president said, “We need to make a direct response to this settlement to show our efforts to prevent further incidences and liability. A change needs to happen now.” Radical changes to address what they see as a culture of substance abuse at Cloyne, include evicting all but one of the co-op’s current residents, and rebranding it as an academic-themed, substance-free residence.

Portugal’s Hazing Problem

The drowning deaths of six Portuguese university students in a single hazing (or praxes) incident, has sparked a national debate in that country about whether or not the tradition of hazing first-year students should be banned. Unlike in this country, hazing in Portugal is not associated with student groups, but is instead a general rite of initiation for incoming students, demonstrating that the inclination towards reckless behavior amongst young people is one that cannot be solved simply by targeting specific, or even all, student groups.

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Think About It Wins Gold NASPA Excellence Award
Posted by On Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Think About It, CampusClarity’s online substance abuse and sexual violence training program for colleges and universities, has won the 2014 Gold NASPA Excellence Award for Violence Education and Prevention.
NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, is the leading association of student affairs professionals in the United States. The NASPA Excellence Awards are presented annually in recognition of NASPA members who are “transforming higher education through outstanding programs, innovative services, and effective administration.”
The awards, which are presented in Gold, Silver, and Bronze categories, recognize excellence in a variety of fields related to student affairs and higher education. Winners are determined by a panel of veteran student affairs professionals, who judge each entry by criteria that include:

  • Impact on student learning
  • Success in addressing student needs
  • Use of innovative and creative methods, practices, or activities
  • Application of available or emerging theoretical models and practical research

Think About It is a collaboration between CampusClarity and the University of San Francisco’s Division of Student Life. In addition to training students to confront and prevent serious campus problems such as sexual violence and substance abuse, the program helps schools comply with the training requirements of the Campus SaVE Act and Title IX, while also providing administrators important insights into the culture of their campus and student body.
More than thirty-five colleges and universities use Think About It to train their students.

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Sextortion, Tweets, and other Dangers of Social Media
Posted by On Thursday, January 2, 2014

This past fall, the FBI arrested 19-year-old Jared James Abrahams, a computer-science student in Southern California, for “sextortion.”

Abrahams had infected young women’s computers with malware that allowed him to control their webcams and collect compromising pictures of them. He then blackmailed his victims by threatening to go public with the images unless they sent him nude pictures or videos, or did his bidding for five minutes on Skype.

According to newspaper reports, one of his victims pled with him to stop. “Please remember I’m only 17. Have a heart,” she wrote. He replied, “I’ll tell you this right now! I do NOT have a heart!!!”

Abrahams threatened one young woman by telling her that her “dream of being a model will be transformed into a pornstar.”

In November, he plead guilty to extortion and unauthorized access of a computer and now faces up to 11 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Nor is Abrahams the first sextortion case. In March 2010, another young man, Luis Mijangos, was arrested for similar crimes. After searching his four laptops, the FBI found “15,000 webcam-video captures, 900 audio recording, and 13,000 screen captures” gathered from more than 230 victims, according to GQ magazine.

Meanwhile, as the Abrahams case was unfolding, on a Boston College Confessions Facebook page, where students post anonymous messages about their college experience, a student confessed to raping three women.

In the post, according to the Boston Globe, the student admitted to raping three young women while they were drunk and incapacitated. “On the one hand,” he wrote, “I know that I need to get help, but on the other hand, I can’t help but be driven to do it again.”

After the post caused an uproar, the student who posted it turned himself into the Boston College police, claiming it was a hoax. The student was referred to the student conduct system.

These are admittedly sensational cases. But they illustrate the bewildering and potentially dangerous problems social media can present for college students. We’ve already written about social media and sexual assault, but cases like those described above make it clear that there are other dangers as well.

In their 2010 annual Campus Computing Survey, the Campus Computing Project found that roughly a sixth of participating campuses reported an incident (such as cyberstalking) related to “student activity on social networking sites.” Over a quarter of public universities reported incidents related to social networking sites, almost double what had been reported in 2009.

As we enter a new year, it seems clear that the number of such incidents will continue to rise as more and more students arrive on campus thoroughly engaged with social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. According to the Pew Research Center’s “Pew Internet and American Life Project,” 72% of adults online use social networking sites. For young adults, the numbers are even higher: 89% of 18-29 year old internet users use social networking sites. 30% of 18-29 year old internet users tweet.

Interim Measures

Students already have a variety of advice columns, classes, and programs they can take to learn or even major in social media. But in response to the prevalence of social media use, some scholars and administrators want to go further by adding courses on digital identity to the core curriculum.

Writing for InsideHigherEd, Eric Stoller speculated,

Digital identity may be the next addition to ‘the core’. The manner in which we engage, share, promote, and present ourselves online has become a major facet in many of our lives. No longer seen as being separate from ‘real life’, an individual’s digital identity is intricately connected to their overall identity… It’s no longer optional for institutions (and their administrators) to passively engage students via social media. Actively creating learning spaces that foster positive development of digital identity should be our mandate.

Interestingly, one place to look for guidance might be college athletics. Because of the high profile and role student athletes perform as representatives of their schools, their social media use has come under particularly intense scrutiny.

Last year, star Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel (“Johnny Football”) announced he was leaving Twitter. Manziel had over 330,000 followers on Twitter at the time. He was leaving because his tweets and social media posts had caused too much controversy. “It’s fun to have,” Manziel told ESPN, “but it can get to be distracting.”

The self-imposed ban didn’t last. The young star now has over half-a-million followers.
Some schools actively train athletes on how to use social media effectively. Recognizing that a ban on social media is unrealistic, programs encourage students to use social media more self-reflectively by asking them to set goals for social media use and then sticking to them.

In a blog post on athletes and social media, Kevin DeShazo of Fieldhouse Media, a firm that helps student-athletes and coaches manage social media, poses two essential questions for athletes to ask themselves: “Who am I? What do I want to be known for?”

DeShazo elaborates:

We all have different goals and reasons for using social media. Regardless of why you use the platforms, the answer[s] to those two questions are still important. While the answers may change over time, as we grow and mature and goals change, they are still questions that must be answered today. They impact not only what you share online but who you interact with, who you friend/follow, your bio, profile pictures, usernames, etc. Every action and interaction impacts your identity and your reputation.

In a world where social media is becoming a crucial aspect of many students’ identities, not just those caught in the public eye of NCAA sports, that’s good advice for any young student.

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Why Are Students So Unhealthy during Finals Week?
Posted by On Monday, December 9, 2013

It’s that time of the year: the trees are all bare, a coat of frost shines on the sidewalk, the smell of  anxiety hangs in the air, and sleep-deprived students lumber around campus unshowered and unshaven. Ah, finals season!

Most of us intuitively understand that stress is connected to students’ failure to fulfill even the most basic self-care during finals, but why? After all, students usually don’t have class or other commitments during finals week, so they should be able to focus exclusively on studying without ignoring the basics like brushing their teeth and getting enough to eat.

Indeed, one might think that faced with the intense pressure of finals, students would renew their focus and effort. In fact, research suggests otherwise, demonstrating how stress alters the way we make decisions.

When stressed out we tend to focus on the short-term rewards and pleasurable outcomes of a decision while ignoring the less savory and long-term consequences. That’s why it’s so hard to resist eating that pint of ice cream in your freezer after a tough day or to forgo buying that new pair of shoes you covet (but can’t afford) after a miserable meeting at the office.

In other words, it is exactly because students have to study for five finals that a friend’s invitation to party tempts them so much. The stress causes them to focus on the immediate reward of going to the party (socializing and drinking) and not the downside of losing a night’s sleep to late night carousing (hang over and poor grades).

Stress also makes it more difficult for students to connect bad decisions to their consequences. Even if students go out the night before a test, stress will help them remember the pleasurable experience of socializing and drinking and forget the fact that they were horribly hung over for the exam. This is one reason why researchers also link stress to substance abuse and addiction. Under stress, you focus on the pleasures of the drug and lose sight of the negative consequences.

Am I saying that stress makes us short-sighted and irresponsible? Not quite. Another recent study shows that under stress some people are actually more likely to sacrifice their time to help someone they care about. The research supports the uplifting hypothesis that humankind’s default setting is to self-sacrifice (when it comes to close relationships). This is well and good for our species, but it also explains why some harried students take on big social commitments during finals week when they should be making more time for themselves.

All this rather paradoxically suggests that exactly when we need to buckle down and get the most done, we have the fewest cognitive resources to do so because stress saps our willpower. Given this fact, a nudge in the right direction might help students keep their cool and improve their grades.

A few common tips worth reminding students about:

Exercise (like walking) has long been touted as an important stress reliever and memory aid. Recent studies suggest that regular exercise also boosts creativity.

Mindfulness and meditation are also good ways to decompress and still the turbulent waters of daily life.

Also remind students to wait until after finals to make big decisions. The simple act of waiting can help students make better, more reflective choices.

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Court Rejects Ban on Alcohol Advertising in College Papers
Posted by On Friday, September 27, 2013

Until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit’s recent decision limited its reach, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board’s (ABC) regulations banned all college newspapers from running alcohol advertising. The ban is part of a comprehensive strategy aimed at reducing underage drinking.

Many colleges and universities take a similar “environmental” or “community-level” approach to combat high-risk drinking. These interventions often enlist retailers and advertisers as allies in prevention efforts. 

But in 2006 two college newspapers affected by the regulation, The University of Virginia’s Cavalier Daily and Virginia Tech’s Collegiate Daily, sued the ABC, claiming the ban violated their First Amendment free speech rights.

The newspapers pointed out that a majority of their readership were over 21 (59-60% of the Collegiate Times‘ and 64% of The Cavalier Daily‘s readers). Therefore, while Virginia had a government interest in preventing underage drinking, the papers’ wide distribution to people over 21 meant that the scope of the regulation was too broad.

In its decision, the Court sided with the college newspapers, acknowledging the state’s interest but rejecting the regulation’s overbroad reach.

“While commercial speech is protected by the First Amendment, there is a ‘commonsense distinction’ between commercial speech and other varieties of speech…[therefore] a regulation of commercial speech will be upheld if (1) the regulated speech concerns lawful activity and is not misleading; (2) the regulation is supported by a substantial government interest; (3) the regulation directly advances that interest; and (4) the regulation is not more extensive than necessary to serve the government’s interest.”

Under this analysis, the Court concluded, “the challenged regulation fails…because it prohibits large numbers of adults who are 21 years of age or older from receiving truthful information about a product that they are legally allowed to consume…Accordingly, the challenged regulation is unconstitutionally overbroad.”

The court also rejected the ABC’s rejoinder that the regulation was justified by the state’s more general interest in combatting abusive drinking, whether by underage or of-age drinkers. The Court cited a previous case that determined “states may not ‘seek to remove a popular but disfavored product from the marketplace by prohibiting truthful, non-misleading advertisements.’”

The ruling, however, did not overturn the regulation itself. It only rejected the regulation as applied to these four-year college newspapers. As commentators have pointed out, where a paper’s underage readership is the majority of its readership, the ban might still apply. A paper at two-year college, for instance, might still be subject to the regulation.

Critics of the ban have lauded the decision as a victory for free speech. Indeed, because school papers operate under tight budgets, the ban had a significant impact on the papers’ finances and thus affected their primary mission of news reporting. According to estimates in The Cavalier Daily, lifting the prohibition would raise advertising revenue by 5 to 8%.

And while harm-reduction specialists may lament the loss of another valuable tool, the research is still divided on the effects of advertising on alcohol consumption. 

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Study Drug and Party Aid: Prescription Stimulant Abuse on College Campuses
Posted by On Wednesday, September 11, 2013

According to the New York Times, in June 2007, freshman Johnny Edwards went to Harvard University’s Health Services clinic complaining about trouble concentrating and studying. A nurse practitioner diagnosed him as suffering from attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and prescribed Adderall, a stimulant. Six months later Edwards killed himself.

Edwards’s father is now suing Harvard for wrongful death, alleging that the diagnosis of ADHD and the Adderall prescription did not meet medical standards.

For two years, Richard Fee struggled with an addiction to Adderall that doctors prescribed him to treat attention ADHD. He had been in an out of psychiatric care, and kicked out of his house by his parents who feared his violent outbursts.

Fee had been introduced to Adderall in college as study aid, only obtaining a prescription for himself after he graduated to help him with medical school applications.

In late 2011, Fee hanged himself in his bedroom closet. His mother found the body.

These tragic cases highlight the dangers of prescription stimulants.

Like Fee and Edwards, many young people are first introduced to these drugs in college. And like Fee, many students’ first experience with the drug is not under a doctor’s order but under academic pressure. Unlike Fee and Edwards, many students obtain the drugs illegally.

Because of their widespread abuse and potentially dire consequences, schools need to develop policies that directly address the use of prescription stimulants on campus.

“I Feel Like a Genius on It”

Students who don’t have a legitimate medical need often take stimulants to get a leg up academically. Though untested on individuals without ADHD, students claim prescription drugs like Adderall and Ritalin help them concentrate, study longer, or simply stay up later to finish a project. They usually take the drugs during finals week or other times of “high academic stress.”[1]

“Adderall has become to college what steroids are to baseball,” explains Roger Cohen in a NY Times column, “an illicit performance enhancer for a fiercely competitive environment.”

In one study, students described the drugs’ effects glowingly. “I get everything done, quickly. I am crazy on it that way,” said one student. Another insisted he was “so much more productive…It’s just a different level on Adderall.” For other students “stuff just registers better” or “I grasp everything so much easier…I feel like a genius on it.”[2]

Given these drugs’ reputations as academic miracle workers, it’s unsurprising that college students are more likely than their non-college peers to have abused prescription stimulants.[3] The estimates vary, but studies have found as many as 34% of college students use prescription stimulants for non-medical reasons.[4]

The medications are easy to get. Friends and acquaintances are the most common suppliers. Nor does there seem to be much of a stigma attached to the drugs. Instead students often see them as safe alternatives to “illegal” drugs.[5]

That they’re legal, however, does not mean that the drugs are safe, especially when used without a doctor’s supervision. The federal government classifies Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta (all used to treat ADHD) as schedule II drugs, the same classification as cocaine, methadone, and methamphetamines. According to federal guidelines, schedule II substances have “a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”

Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration warns that Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta can cause heart problems, aggressive behavior, and even psychotic symptoms in children and teenagers.

To make matters worse, students often ingest them in ways that are not prescribed, such as snorting them or taking higher dosages. As one student explained to researchers, Adderall often comes in time release capsules, but “if you mash it up, you get it all at once, like a rush.”[6]

“Cheap Coke”

Some students are less coy about prescription stimulants’ potential for recreational and not just academic abuse. One described Adderall to researchers as “cheap coke. You know you get the same high, but you can get it for like 5 bucks.”[7]

Indeed, while most students cite academic reasons as their motive for abusing prescription stimulants, 22.5% reported they used the drugs to party — not study — longer.[8] Sadly, the consequences of abusing these stimulants as party drugs are now appearing in emergency rooms.

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, in 2005 the number of emergency room visits related to “nonmedical” use of central nervous system stimulants like Ritalin, Adderall, and caffeine pills was 5,605. In 2012, it was 22,949. Thirty percent of those visits in 2012 — over 6,800 — involved alcohol.

Studies show that college students who used non-medical prescription stimulants while drinking are more likely than other drinkers to experience alcohol-related consequences. Some researchers speculate that this is because the stimulants hide the depressive effects of intoxication, leading users to drink more.[9]

Users of illicit prescription stimulants are also more likely than other drug users to report taking several drugs, often simultaneously, a dangerous and potentially fatal practice.[10]

Preventing Abuse

Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin have important, legitimate medical uses.

But these drugs also lend themselves to abuse by students looking for an academic edge or cheap high. And the potential for abuse will only grow as more students with prescriptions to Adderall or Ritalin (and hence more pills) arrive on campuses.

According to the CDC, between 1997 and 2006, rates of ADHD diagnosis increased by 3% every year. As of 2007, 9.5% of children 4 to 17 years old were diagnosed with ADHD. 66.3% of those children received medication for the disorder.

In fact, studies have shown that colleges students can effectively fake ADHD symptoms based on information available on the web, which might mean that motivated college students are dishonestly obtaining prescriptions.[11]

Unfortunately, abusers of prescription stimulants end up hurting students with legitmate reasons to take the medications. On College Confidential, an online forum for college students, one poster complained that abusers of medications damaged the reputations of students with ADHD:

I have some serious gripes about these bad practices. First of all, we don’t take meds to get ahead. We take meds to level the goddamn playing field by controlling our symptoms and making our minds like one of yours, and these people are just messing it up for us. Secondly, all of this is giving us a bad reputation and personally I’m sick of hearing how kids with AD(H)D are all frauds and cheaters. Abusing medication is repulsive to me.

Cracking down on abuse might help remove the label of “fraud” or “cheater” that also sticks to legitimate users of the medications.

Several schools have already put policies in place to prevent abuse.  Duke University, for instance, includes “the unauthorized use of prescription medication to enhance academic performance” as a form of cheating in its policy on academic dishonesty. Other colleges and universities have begun to require a more rigorous diagnosis before any medication is prescribed.

Regardless of the approach, colleges and universities need to be actively addressing this issue in a sensitive and effective manner.

Works Cited

[1] DeSantis, A.D., Webb, E.M., Noar, S.M. (2008). “Illict Use of Prescription ADHD Medications on College Campus: A Multimethodological Approach.” Journal of American College Health, 57, 315-323, esp. 319.

[2] Ibid.

[3] McCabe, S.E., Teter, C.J. (2007). “Drug use related problems among nonmedical users of prescription stimulants: A web-based survey of college students from a Midwestern university.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 91, 69-76.

[4] DeSantis 2009.

[5]Bavarian, N., Flay, B.R., Ketcham, P.L., Smit, E. (2013). “Illicit use of prescription stimulants in a college student sample: A theory-guided analysis.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 132, 665-673. DesSantis 2009, 322. Bavarian 2013.

[6] DeSantis 2009, 320.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Bavarian 2013.

[9] Egan, K.L., Reboussin, B.A., Blocker, J.N., Wolfson, M., Sutfin, E.L. (2013). “Simultaneous use of non-medical ADHD prescription stimulants and alcohol among undergraduate students. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 131, 71-77.

[10] McCabe 2007.

[11] Sollman, M., Ranseen, J.D., Berry, D.T.R. (2010). “Detection of Feigned ADHD in College Students.” Psychological Assessment, 22, 325-335.

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Posted by On Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Welcome to the CampusClarity blog.

At CampusClarity, our expert team helps colleges and universities maintain a healthy campus climate and comply with the law. This blog is our newest effort.

In these posts, we will discuss major compliance developments. We will navigate the laws, regulations, and best practices that inform campus policies. We will cover topics ranging from Title IX and the Campus SaVE Act to child-abuse reporting, professional ethics, and harm-reduction strategies.

Enacted in March 2013, the Campus SaVE Act has expanded higher education crime reporting requirements and education programs for students and employees. Now more than ever, schools must improve campus safety and compliance. In a small way, this blog will help.

We welcome your feedback. Help us improve our comprehensive harm-reduction program and make this blog a valuable compliance resource.

The CampusClarity Team

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