July 2, 2007
By George Mauzy and Tom Bosco
The number of Ohio University Judiciaries cases involving student alcohol violations dropped more than 32 percent in 2006-07 compared to the year before, a decline Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith attributes to new university strategies to reduce high-risk drinking.
Smith presented a report on the judicial cases to a committee of the Ohio University Board of Trustees late last week.
According to a report from the Alcohol Policy Implementation Team, which included figures for fall and winter quarters, and additional numbers for spring quarter, there were 1,602 alcohol-related cases in 2006-07, down 32 percent from the 2,362 cases in 2005-06 and 10 percent from the 1,782 cases in 2004-05.
In addition, there was a 60 percent drop in the percentage rate of repeat offenses when comparing fall and winter quarter 2006-07 cases to the same quarters the previous year. The spring quarter recidivism rate is not yet available.
"Do we believe the new policies are having the intended effect? Absolutely," Smith told the trustees.
In fall 2006, the university implemented an integrated set of strategies that the Coalition Advocating Responsible Drinking Decisions and the Alcohol Response Protocol Task Force developed to curb high-risk drinking and its negative consequences.
The blend of existing, enhanced and new strategies includes adjudicating off-campus alcohol offenses as well as those occurring on campus, expanding notification of students' parents, enhancing sanctions for violations of the Student Code of Conduct and instituting use of an "alcohol audit." The audit helps assign violators to one of two intervention programs: Prime for Life, designed for at-risk students, or Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students for high-risk students.
The strategies also include stepped-up sanctions such as longer probations for first-time offenders, increased use of suspensions as a sanction for repeat offenders and a mandatory $100 fee for each offense.
While alcohol-related cases are down, Smith said the number of drug cases is up 19 percent, from 267 in 2005-2006 to 331 in 2006-2007. There were 276 such cases in 2004-05. Smith said most of the violations involve marijuana use. He commissioned a Student Senate group to study drug use and make recommendations; he is reviewing those recommendations now and expects to put a new policy regarding marijuana in place during 2007-08.
Of the 2,361 total cases handled by University Judiciaries during the 2006-07 academic year, 1,467 resulted in probation, 109 in reprimand, 88 in suspension and 492 in dismissal of charges. A total of 201 of the 2006-07 cases remain open. Statistics for previous years show similar percentages in each category, however the rate of suspension for repeat alcohol offenders increased from 16 percent in 2005-06 to 40 percent in 2006-07, according to the report.
Fees charged to students found in violation of alcohol policies totaled $109,000 during fall and winter quarters, helping to fund additional counseling and education programs. Spring-quarter fees are not yet available.
The Alcohol Policy Implementation Team, formed in spring 2006 to implement the new strategies, was reconvened this spring to review and report on how well the new efforts have worked. Among its recommendations were to improve or replace the alcohol audit to ensure students' needs or situations match the intervention used; adding more Prime for Life sessions; and improving the scheduling of judicial hearings.
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Judy Piercy, who chaired the Alcohol Policy Implementation Team, agreed with Smith's view of drop in alcohol cases: "The increased efforts are paying off, and we are definitely headed in the right direction."
Groups providing feedback during throughout this process have included Student Senate's Special Committee on Alcohol Response, the Ohio University Code of Conduct Review and Standards Committee, the Athens City/Ohio University Joint Committee on Civic Responsibility, the Residence Life Councils, and the Council of Student Leaders. The university also hosted a campus Day of Dialogue in February 2006 to take an in-depth look at the alcohol issue.