The University Record, July 19, 1999

Committee issues recommendations on reducing binge drinking

By Joel Seguine
News and Information Services

The committee recommended addressing misconceptions first-year students may have about the use of alcohol by other students on campus. The poster above
was designed to help educate students about binge drinking and the attitude of most students on campus towards risky drinking.
A committee of students, faculty and administrators has made dozens of recommendations aimed at the problem of high-risk, binge drinking, especially among first-year students.

The standard definition for binge drinking is five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in a single sitting or occasion. High-risk drinking is defined as having significant negative consequences for the drinker and/or someone else. These can be legal, personal, health-related, social or academic/occupational, immediate or long-term, direct or indirect.

Among the recommendations of the Binge Drinking Committee, released July 7, are:

  • Work toward an environment in which students have a wide variety of social options that are attractive alternatives to binge drinking.

  • Address misperceptions first-year students may have about alcohol use by other students, and enhance educational efforts, in and out of the classroom, about the dangers of binge drinking.

  • Enhance on-campus support systems for students who have continuing problems with alcohol/drug use.

  • Use a variety of research tools to regularly assess program effectiveness by measuring students’ use of and attitudes towards alcohol/drugs.

  • Centralize the coordination of all campus initiatives, programs and policies relating to alcohol and other drugs under a new full-time staff person.

    The committee was formed by former Vice President for Student Affairs Maureen Hartford in August 1998. She charged the group with “identifying strategies to reduce harmful, high-risk drinking—and the negative consequences of this drinking—among first-year students, particularly those residing in on-campus residence halls.”

    “I’m very impressed with the wide range of recommendations the committee has made,” said Royster Harper, interim vice president for student affairs. “As the members have clearly recognized, there isn’t a quick fix to this problem. As we move to the next phase of addressing the issues surrounding binge drinking we will want to engage students, faculty and staff as we answer the question, ‘What kind of community do we want to be?’ As such,” Harper added, “I want right away to weave some of the recommendations into our overall efforts in building community at Michigan.”

    To facilitate the committee’s work, four sub-committees—Prevention/Education, Policy, Curriculum, Communications/Community Relations—were charged with developing goals and strategies that the full committee organized into eight categories of recommendations: central coordination and leadership; ongoing monitoring via research; campus policy; specific new initiatives for prevention; specific new initiatives for counseling and intervention support; specific new initiatives for education, both curricular and co-curricular; community relations.

    Other recommendations of the committee include:

  • Develop an overarching alcohol and other drugs (AOD) policy that all students understand; and work toward a centralized system for reporting, tracking and adjudicating all AOD violations.

  • Use various research tools, regularly assess student AOD use, attitudes and the effectiveness of initiatives and programs.

  • Facilitate a discussion of parental notification for adjudicated AOD violations in view of a recent amendment to the Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act which allows disclosure to parents of AOD violations.

  • Develop and publicize a Universitywide message on policy, enforcement, expectations, harm reduction and positive social norms to be incorporated into a comprehensive educational effort in and out of the classroom.

  • Encourage participation of local bars, alcohol distributors and the larger alcohol industry in reducing underage drinking and spreading a moderation message to those who are of an age to drink legally.

    The recommendation the Binge Drinking Committee characterizes as its strongest is appointment of a committee similar to itself that will continue its work, specifically in getting additional student input, identifying liaisons in other units, overseeing implementation of recommendations that can be acted on quickly, and evaluating recommendations in the report and new ones that will arise.

    The full text of the report, “Initial Report and Recommendations to Reduce Risky Drinking of First-Year Students in Residence Halls,” is on the Web at www.umich.edu/~newsinfo/BG/drinkrep.html.

    The Binge Drinking Committee was chaired by Marsha Benz, program associate, University Health Service. J. Ann Hower, director, Office of New Student Programs, and Deborah Kraus, clinical psychologist, Counseling and Psychological Services were co-chairs. Other members are:

    April J. Bayles, Student-Athlete Development Office; Carol Boyd, Substance Abuse Research Center; James Christie, 1998–99 Residence Hall Association president; Mary J. Gray, 1998 Panhellenic president; Sean E. McCabe, Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs;

    John R. Mountz, Office of Greek Life; Philip Parker, parent and psychiatrist; David Schoem, Office of the Provost and Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs; Beth Patterson, residence adviser and sorority member; John Schulenberg, Institute for Social Research;

    Trent Thompson, president, Michigan Student Assembly; Bill Zeller, University Housing; and Janet Zielasko, University Health Service.

    Committee affiliates were Sarah Alvarez, student; Jeff Brake, Campus Information Centers; and Joel Seguine, News and Information Services.