How have these new initiatives been developed?
In the fall of 2012, the Yale College Dean’s Office focused on efforts to make the undergraduate student experience safer, by examining the culture of high risk drinking in the College. At that time, Dean Mary Miller convened The Yale College Task Force for Alcohol and Other Drugs to develop short-term interventions as well as a set of long-term strategic proposals. At the same time, former President Levin convened the University Council Committee on Alcohol in Yale College (UCCAYC) to study the culture of alcohol use at Yale, review short- and long-term solutions identified by the Task Force, and recommend a long-term strategy to reduce high-risk drinking and the harms associated with it.
Why was alcohol use on Yale’s campus studied? Is there really a problem?
High-risk use of alcohol and other drugs is a growing problem nationally, and Yale’s internal data confirms that these dangerous behaviors are present on our campus, too. Both the Yale College Task Force and the University Council Committee on Alcohol in Yale College heard concerns from students, faculty, and staff, who all recognized that high-risk drinking endangers the health and safety of the Yale community.
What is “high-risk drinking”?
Research on alcohol consumption has documented very strong associations between certain patterns of drinking and an array of negative outcomes. For example, “pregaming” (gathering to drink in advance of another event), while not necessarily risky, can often encourage dangerously rapid consumption of large amounts of alcohol. One of the most common indicators of both individual and community risk is the prevalence of “binge drinking”—consuming four servings of alcohol (for women) or five (for men) within two-hours.
What’s at risk?
Alcohol poisoning (potentially fatal) is the most extreme danger, and one that rightfully demands serious attention. But other harms warrant our concern as well. They are pervasive, and inflict significant cumulative damage: physical injury and illness; drops in academic, artistic, and athletic performance; interpersonal conflict and even violence; destruction of property, friendships, and reputations. These harms affect communities as well as individuals, and play out over both the short and long terms. One of the most common indicators of risk is the prevalence of “binge drinking”— technically measured via blood alcohol content , but approximated as the consumption of four servings of alcohol (for women) or five (for men) within a two hour period.
What do we know about alcohol use at Yale? How does it compare to drinking at other universities?
For the past two and a half years, the AODRHI has conducted periodic surveys of Yale students to ask about their drinking behavior. In academic year 2012-13, 85% of students indicated that they drink at least sometimes, with that number increasing with class year. Of the 94% of respondents who had consumed alcohol within the prior two weeks, 72% had consumed four or more drinks in a single “sitting”; 11% had more than 10 drinks in a single sitting. And our students don’t just report risks—they say they experience harms, too. For example, of those students who drank in the prior two weeks, 13% said this caused them to miss a class,17% said they vomited, and 33% did something they later regretted. An alarming 24% said they forgot where they were or what they did – in other words, almost a quarter of them had blacked out.
The use of alcohol by Yale undergraduates not unusual. These patterns are very similar to (and in some cases better than) those found at institutions across the country, but that is scant comfort. These are alarming findings, and demand attention and action.
Who was on the Yale College Task Force on Alcohol and Other Drugs?
The Task Force was composed of Yale students, administrators, health professionals, law enforcement officials, and representatives of Yale’s legal counsel. The six students on the Task Force represented a wide range of perspectives on campus life, including the athletics, Greek life, the freshman counselor program, the Yale College Council, and peer education programs.
Who was on the University Council Committee on Alcohol and Other Drugs?
University Council members are generally drawn from the alumni population and are appointed by the Yale Corporation on nomination by the President. The UCCAYC also included experts in the field of alcohol and other drug abuse, young adult psychology, and public health. President Levin selected committee members with sufficient experience to understand the scope of the problem of dangerous drinking on Yale’s campus.
What were the Committee’s recommendations?
The Committee made five key recommendations:
1. Develop a cohesive, coordinated, and expansive approach to alcohol use among undergraduates.
2. Communicate and consistently implement policies, procedures, and consequences.
3. Expand education about alcohol, drawing on best practices.
4. Provide more opportunities for alcohol to play a lesser role in activities and social events, especially during evening and late-night hours.
5. Engage the entire campus community, including students and senior administrative leadership, in frank dialogue about high-risk alcohol use; clearly articulate our community values.
How do these recommendations differ from the ones made by the YCDO Taskforce?
These recommendations come from a thorough review of all alcohol related discussions on campus, including the work of the Task Force. The UCCAYC met with the Taskforce and reviewed its findings and recommendations, incorporating many of its recommendations into their own.
What will be the University’s approach?
The University sees high-risk drinking as a public health issue that involves individual behavior as well the context that often causes it. As it seeks to reduce the harms associated with high-risk drinking, the University will address the factors that promote it, especially community dynamics; it will provide clear expectations for individual students’ behavior; and it will support students who need to develop more responsible habits. While discipline will sometimes play a role in ensuring community safety, the University’s primary tools will be education, intervention, and cultural change. It will communicate with and actively involve the student body at every stage.
What is the administration planning to do in the immediate future?
An implementation committee, made up of students, faculty, and administrators, has already begun the work of putting in place the initiatives from the Task Force and the UCCAYC. A second group, a student advisory committee being convened now, will get underway in March 2014. These committees will review existing policies, programs, and procedures with the intention of revising them, as necessary, in the coming term. In addition, a number of opportunities already exist for community members, especially students, to provide feedback: open college forums and study breaks, meetings with student leaders, and an online response form. [Links for each of these – student leader link should describe who we are meeting with, plus offer that we will meet with any other group would wants to invite us]
Who will lead the effort to update and expand alcohol policy and/or resources?
Kimberly Goff-Crews, Secretary and Vice President for Student Life, and Marichal Gentry, Dean of Student Affairs, will co-chair the newly created implementation committee comprised of students, members of the Yale College staff, and other administrators [LINK TO ROSTER]. The student advisory committee will offer feedback and advice throughout the process. Students are integral to the creation of a healthy college environment and are thus critical partners as we address high-risk alcohol use on campus.
Will there be student representatives on the advisory and/or implementation committees? How can I apply?
Yes. The implementation committee will include six undergraduates and two graduate students. The student advisory committee will include XX additional undergraduates. If you are interested in applying to either committee, click here [link].
Will there be immediate change in policies or how they are communicated to students?
Although policies will not change immediately, the implementation committee will begin its work by reviewing all alcohol-related policies and practices. This review will clarify policies, revise them as necessary, and apply and communicate them consistently. New alcohol policies will [[most likely]] be put in place beginning in the Fall of 2014. In the meantime, please continue to refer to the Undergraduate Regulations handbook and the AODHRI website, where all alcohol-related student policies are posted.
How will the university clarify the role of alcohol counseling, discipline, and other strategies for responding to problems?
The implementation and advisory committees will develop a series of scenarios that illustrate a range of individual and group behaviors and describe the likely outcomes. These scenarios will be initially distributed to the undergraduate community, and maintained on the AODHRI website.
Will Yale introduce an amnesty or “Good Samaritan” policy?
The university wants to ensure that students are comfortable calling for help for themselves or their peers. The implementation committee will actively take up the issue of amnesty and Good Samaritan policies.