AODHRI has a variety of anecdotal and episodic measures of undergraduate alcohol use at Yale, but our most important data comes from our anonymous surveys.
Beginning in Fall 2011, AODHRI has worked with the Office of Institutional Research to collect and analyze information from students on their own experiences, observations, and opinions. The survey is spread out over the academic year, with the entire student body being surveyed once per year. Our response rate has been excellent (around 50%), so we have a high degree of confidence in the results.
This data has, until now, been strictly confidential, but as the University moves into action, it’s becoming increasingly important to share it. Much of what we are learning flies in the face of common campus beliefs. Understanding the patterns will not solve the problems, but it’s an important first step.
Claim: Alcohol is a problem at big state institutions and “party schools,” but not at a place like Yale.
Data: High-risk drinking is a problem almost everywhere, including Yale and its peer institutions.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Estimate: about half of college drinkers “binge drink” – that is, they consume 4 or more drinks (for women) or 5 or more drinks (for men) in an evening
- Yale respondents: 62% of drinkers report binge drinking
Why we care: The issues we are grappling with are national ones, rooted in broad cultural dynamics. But it helps that other institutions are grappling with high-risk drinking too. We can share resources, strategies, and data (for example, we are part of the NCHIP collaborative).
Claim: All college students drink.
Data: 15% of respondents say they do not drink at all. And most of those who do drink don’t drink every day!
Why we care: We’re focused on high-risk drinking, but we need to also meet the needs of those who don’t drink – as well as those who drink just a little.
Claim: Most students are responsible drinkers. The issue is just with a few outliers.
Data: Some students do drink responsibly. But there is a lot of risky drinking, too.
e.g., of the respondents who reported drinking in the past two weeks, what was the highest number of drinks they have consumed in a single setting?
- 1-3 drinks: 29%
- 4 or more: 71%
Why we care: 1-3 drinks is fine, especially if they are spread out over at least an hour. Beyond that is increasingly dangerous, with both immediate and long-term risks. Check out the blood alcohol calculator to get a sense of the impact this many drinks can have on a person’s body!
Claim: The problems are with inexperienced freshmen. Older students know how to drink.
Data: Overall drinking rates—and most drinking harms—rise as students get older.
e.g., % of all Yale respondents who report drinking enough to forget where they were or what they did within the last month
- freshman: 19
- seniors: 24
Why we care: We’ve put a lot of energy into freshman safety, which is right. But we can’t afford to delude ourselves into thinking we just need to work on the transition to college. Students who drink need to be learning how to do so responsibly–and we need to figure out how to make that happen.
Claim: Most of the dangerous drinking takes place off campus.
Data: Those highest-consumption-in-the-past-two-weeks rates we cite above? That consuming happens mostly in dorm rooms – 57% of it.
Why we care: Risky drinking is integrated into ordinary campus life. That’s the part that needs to change.
Claim: Only administrators care about this. Students will fight for their right to drink as recklessly as they want.
Data: Students are worried too. 28% would like alcohol to play less of a role in social life at Yale. 52% would like it to play less of a role in sexual and romantic life.
Why we care: Administrators can provide resources, information, and support, but only students can change the culture.
Want to be part of the change? Do stuff.