Feb. 23, 2006
By Elizabeth Boyle
This week, Ohio University took a momentous step in the development of its strategies to reduce high-risk drinking. It held a community-wide meeting in which students, faculty, staff and community members came together to consider the problem of high-risk drinking and potential solutions.
"I have been talking about the importance of personal and civic responsibility since 2004. I am concerned about high-risk drinking because it affects the health and safety of our students, their academic success, and the welfare of our community," Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis said. "The issue of alcohol abuse is one that affects all of us. In order to develop a comprehensive approach, we must engage all members of our community."
The goal of "Day of Dialogue: Addressing High-Risk Drinking at Ohio University" was to engage a wider circle of community members in discussions about a set of recommendations being considered for reducing the problem at the university.
The event, which took place on Tuesday, Feb. 21, included a video presentation to establish the context for the meeting and share various perspectives about high-risk drinking. Presentations followed from Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Judy Piercy, who is also interim director of Residence Life and co-chair of the Coalition Advocating Responsible Drinking Decisions, and Director of Institutional Research Mike Williford. Piercy spoke about the definition of high-risk drinking and its consequences and Williford talked about how it affects Ohio University.
"Most violations of the Student Code of Conduct at Ohio University involve drinking," Piercy said, adding that high-risk drinking can lead to academic problems, health problems, property damage and police involvement.
Facilitated small group discussion followed the presentations, with groups responding and adding to the recommendations. Meeting participants were then asked to share their comments with the group at large. Ideas from the group included the suggestion that Athens community members, the mayor and city council get involved with ideas for change; that the university give people opportunities to move toward an overall healthier lifestyle instead of simply moving away from high-risk drinking; and that the university increase marketing regarding positive student activities.
"There was a strong consensus that [high-risk drinking] is a problem. And that's a big step," Provost Kathy Krendl said about the event. "It's not that students shouldn't have good social opportunities and be socially engaged, but we want them to do so in a safe and responsible way."
Dean of Students Terry Hogan was pleased with the meeting's outcome.
"We heard fresh ideas," Hogan said. "New strategies were brought up that have merit and that will be considered in this ongoing process of gaining feedback."
Ohio University is continuing to gather input from a broad base of constituents regarding a set of recommendations for reducing high-risk drinking. The recommendations under consideration were made by two groups: the CARDD, which has existed since 1996 and includes faculty, staff, students and community members; and the Alcohol Response Protocol Task Force, a group assembled in 2005 to help develop potential new approaches to reduce high-risk drinking. Additional recommendations have been developed by Student Senate's Special Committee on Alcohol Response.
The recommendations include:
- Expanding off-campus living efforts and opportunities for positive student activities
- Enhancing intervention efforts by implementing a non-therapeutic audit to help judicial hearing officers assign appropriate and consistent sanctions for each student's actions, adopting consistent and research-based sanctions, and creating college-level interventions for students' alcohol- or drug-related misbehavior
- Strengthening the disciplinary response by adjudicating all instances of off-campus behavior, expanding parental notification, enhancing sanctions for violations of Student Code of Conduct, and suspending students who violate probation
- Improving communication and law enforcement efforts, and expanding assessment of the various initiatives
Feedback about the recommendations from all sources will be assembled and shared with McDavis. The university anticipates announcing a new, comprehensive strategy to address high-risk drinking during the spring quarter so it can prepare for implementation in fall 2006.
"We will continue to look for creative ways to keep the dialogue going, both before the policies are put in place and after," McDavis said.
Elizabeth Boyle is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.