Ohio University has worked proactively to reduce high risk drinking by students since adopting its first comprehensive alcoholic beverage policy in 1982. Abuse of alcohol and underage drinking have constituted violations of the Student Code of Conduct since the code’s inception, and Residence Life staff and Campus Police routinely confront student misbehavior related to alcohol.
In 1989, the Department of Health Education and Wellness, now Health Promotion, was established and charged to take a proactive approach to educating students on health issues and preventing abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Also in 1989, funding was allocated to hire a full time substance abuse prevention specialist.
Throughout the 1980s and 90s, changes were made in campus programs and policies in order to further diminish the role of alcoholic beverages in the lives of Ohio students. Among them:
- The campus pub was converted to a campus coffeehouse.
- Limitations were placed on sponsorship of campus events by alcoholic beverage manufacturers and distributors.
- The first comprehensive fraternity and sorority alcohol policy was developed which eliminated all alcoholic beverages from recruitment/rush activities.
- Fraternities and sororities that violated the alcohol policy were (and continue to be) disciplined through the University Judicial system with sanctions ranging from probation to extended suspensions.
- Outdoor public events with alcohol were banned.
- Tailgating and consumption of alcohol at athletic events were targeted for enforcement.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol was elevated from a minor to a major offense in the Code of Conduct.
- Intoxication was eliminated as a mitigating factor in all judicial cases.
- Educational programs were developed and required in judicial cases.
- Substance abuse prevention information was incorporated into first-year student orientation, the Student Handbook, and the Parent Handbook.
All of this was undertaken on a campus that has and continues to provide innumerable opportunities for positive student activity and engagement, and prides itself on the student learning and character development that takes place through out-of-class activity. Over 7,000 students participate in intramurals, and almost 13,000 are members of one or more of the 350 clubs and organizations on campus. Students participate in campus governance through student government and service on University committees and the Board of Trustees. Over 7,000 students provide over 200,000 hours of community service annually. Students produce campus media including a daily newspaper, a yearbook, a literary magazine, a regional magazine, and programming on 6 radio and 2 television stations. Over 20% are employed part-time while attending school. Over 65% attend cultural events on campus.
Despite these efforts, the incidence of high risk drinking continued to be of concern. In 1996, funding was secured to conduct the first-ever research study (using the Core Survey) on student drinking behavior at Ohio University. The results indicated that most students who drank did so in a responsible fashion, but that too many students engaged in high risk drinking behavior.
In 1996, Ohio University joined 18 other college and universities to find innovative ways to address college students’ binge drinking. This effort, chaired initially by Gordon Gee, President of Ohio State University, and Barbara Ross-Lee, Dean of the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, led to the development of a more extensive series of strategies designed to reduce high risk drinking, all of which revolved around taking an “environmental change” approach. This coalition is organized and supported by Ohio Parents for Drug-Free Youth.
Among the strategies adopted by Ohio University was the formation of a campus-wide coalition of students, faculty, staff, and community members. This group is called CARDD – Coalition Advocating Responsible Drinking Decisions.