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Involving Colleges and Universities

The first step in integrating research into the planning and execution of campus alcohol programs is to convince college and university presidents of the wisdom of supporting long-term research agendas that may not produce results during their tenure. Compelling arguments for this position can be made on the basis of:

  • Data describing the dimensions of the college drinking epidemic and its effects on students; institutional costs and good will; and the surrounding community;
  • Findings indicating that research-based strategies are effective in reducing underage and excessive student drinking; and
  • College presidents' desires to ensure a legacy that includes improved student health and safety as major achievements.
Creating a Research-Based Campus Alcohol Program

Why Do It?

  • Excessive drinking affects all students, increases institutional costs, and hurts town-gown relationships.
  • Research-based strategies are more effective than quick fixes and produce quantifiable results.
  • Effective programs improve student health and safety and contribute to a meaningful legacy.

Where To Begin?

  • Commit to a long-term, research-based approach.
  • Persuade the larger campus community of the wisdom of this approach.

How Do I Take Action?

  • Collect basic information about the nature and extent of student drinking as a first step.
  • Design a comprehensive program using the "3-in-1"framework recommended by the Task Force. Incorporate strategies that address the particular problems on your campus.
  • Secure outside support for your program.

How Can I Sustain Interest in the Program?

  • Create administrative norms that help institutionalize the program.
  • Monitor program results and publicize them.
  • Continue the conversation on this issue with all members of the campus community, local community leaders, and your peers; use this dialogue to improve and update the program to respond to changing conditions on campus.

Establishing Administrative Norms

Once college and university presidents are committed to using a research-based approach, the next step is to establish administrative norms that:

  • Recognize the importance of research, and
  • Require inclusion of review and evaluation components before institutional resources are allocated for program implementation.

Obtaining External Support

Support is also needed on a more global level. Schools cannot be expected to mount campaigns for or implement research-based approaches on their own. Commitments are needed from the community surrounding the campus, as well as from funding sources such as foundations, national organizations, and the hospitality and alcohol beverage industries to support only comprehensive, research-based strategies for addressing underage and excessive college drinking. Concerted efforts by State and Federal policymakers and leaders from the broad-based alcohol abuse prevention and treatment fields are also essential to achieving this goal.

Credible research provides the foundation for making solid programming decisions. The sophisticated methods employed in contemporary research are producing information that:

  • Improves the effectiveness of prevention programs aimed at adolescents and young adults, and
  • Provides much-needed accountability for resources expended.

In the Task Force's view, the prospects for genuine progress in addressing underage and excessive student drinking are enhanced substantially when colleges and universities can:

  • Assess their problems realistically;
  • Adopt research-based strategies to confront them;
  • Adjust program activities to meet institution-specific needs; and
  • Define outcomes for drinking programs that reflect desired changes and can be measured.

External resources can help presidents ensure that these important activities are integrated within a school's program for addressing hazardous student drinking.

Defining Credible Research

Task Force members relied on credible research to understand the impact of high-risk drinking on campus and formulate recommendations for addressing it. In contrast to research that is methodologically weak or where more has been inferred than the data allow, credible research increases understanding.

Sound research follows the principles of the scientific method and uses as many rigorous methodological techniques as possible when designing studies. Among those techniques are randomized assignment of study subjects to control and experimental groups, use of pre- and post-observations or multiple observations when feasible, and use of probability sampling.

Whereas findings from inadequately designed, implemented, or analyzed research can lead to erroneous conclusions, credible research advances the practice of alcohol problem prevention and treatment by generating, methodically applying, and testing new ideas.


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Historical document
Last reviewed: 9/23/2005

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