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College Drinking Prevention - Changing the Culture

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What Colleges Need to Know Now: An Update on College Drinking Research

A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges

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Reducing Alcohol Problems on Campus: A Guide to Planning and Evaluation

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The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is committed to helping colleges and universities reduce alcohol-related problems on their campuses, protecting students from harm, and improving quality of life for the entire campus community. To guide future efforts, the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism established a Task Force on College Drinking to review and report on the existing research on college student drinking, including evaluations of campus and community policies, prevention programs, and case referral and intervention systems. The Task Force’s Report, A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges, provides college administrators and program specialists with a useful overview of this review and evaluation of available research findings, and can be used to inform future program and policy development (see for complete text of the report).

While informative, this evaluation of the research literature cannot be translated into a simple formula for college and university administrators and program staff to follow. School officials can learn from what others have tried, but ultimately they must devise, through successive approximation, a tailored approach that fits the needs of their own institution.

This means, therefore, that each institution must have a feedback mechanism in place for monitoring its prevention programs and policies and for evaluating their effectiveness. A well-managed corporation monitors its business operations and sales. Likewise, colleges and universities should ensure that their prevention programs and policies are being implemented as planned and are working well to reduce alcohol-related problems. Otherwise, substantial financial and staffing resources will continue to be expended without knowledge of whether the programs implemented are actually ameliorating the problem.

Our objectives in writing this guide are simple. First, we want college and university administrators and program specialists to know that there is evaluation research available that can guide the overall direction of prevention work on their campus. We believe it is essential that top administrators insist their staffs consult this research literature when designing new programs and formulating new policies, rather than rely on conventional wisdom or tradition to guide them. Simply replicating what other schools are doing is not a substitute for sound planning.

Second, we want administrators and program staff to understand better the central role of evaluation in planning. As we outline below, the ideal is for program planning and evaluation to be tightly integrated. Top college and university administrators, and the governing boards or State legislatures to whom they report, are in a strong position to urge adoption of this integrated approach. They can insist that prevention planning be guided by clearly articulated goals, objectives, and activities, all informed by current research. They can provide the resources needed for data collection and analysis. And they can foster a supportive atmosphere where evaluation is used as a learning tool, not as a weapon for threatening elimination of programs or staff positions.

More broadly, our hope is that, when greater numbers of college and university administrators and program staff commit their institutions to sound planning and evaluation, all of us will benefit from their work.


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Last reviewed: 9/23/2005

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