The Inside Higher Ed article, “When a Committee Isn’t Enough” is filled with great news for our nation’s colleges working to thwart alcohol abuse on their campuses. Spurred by funding from NIAAA, the California system has taken many lessons learned to heart and has achieved real results.
First, partnering with actors throughout the campus community – traditional and non-traditional – is essential to bringing about lasting impact. Underage drinking and over-consumption are both community issues that have to be addressed accordingly. The benefits of collaboration and a comprehensive approach go well beyond any one campaign or initiative.
Second, communications is key to ensuring that policies and enforcement have positive implications. Ads in the student paper, websites and events should all reinforce common messaging that multiplies its effects, and that messaging should be developed alongside concerned students. Preachy messaging written by people twice or three times the age of students just doesn’t work. Campus administrations must find their own voice on this issue (it’s different for each campus) but so to must the students.
Third, technology has to be the centerpiece to reaching students. It’s not an afterthought but essential to reaching students. It’s where they live.
Fourth, The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility has seen, first hand, the power of including students. At the end of the day, you can’t turn this into a test of wills. If you have college-age kids, you know that’s a losing battle. You can get them involved and get them invested in being part of the solution. Getting advice from students is a must. Award-winning campaigns like the University of Alabama’s Less Than U Think initiative turned student bystanders into student activists.
Finally, the article talks about initiating activities early in the year in the hope of changing drinking behaviors throughout the year. In other words, all of these activities fold together to create a new culture on campus. Changing the drinking culture on campus may be the hardest thing to do but the payoff in the future is truly the sum of all the parts.