College presidents across the country believe that excessive drinking by college students is the number one campus-life problem. Some of the obvious dangers of student alcohol misuse include:
- harm to those who drink to excess;
- negative impacts on non-drinking students and those who drink responsibly;
- damage to the college reputation.
According to requirements of the Federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act and its 1989 amendments, institutions that receive Federal funds:
- “Implement an alcohol and drug education program;
- Define a policy that prohibits the unlawful possession, use, and distribution of alcohol and other drugs;
- Share information about alcohol and drug treatment programs available to students and employees;
- Adopt disciplinary sanctions for students and employees who violate the school’s policy on alcohol and drugs; and
- Ensure that the disciplinary sanctions are consistently enforced.”
Because of the fear of consequences from violating rules regarding campus drinking, underage drinkers sometimes put themselves and others in danger. In response, some schools have addressed this issue as they try to avoid sending a message of permissiveness about illegal underage alcohol and binge drinking without scaring students into inaction when a situation becomes dangerous.
A number of schools are adopting a “Good Samaritan” rule so that in medical emergencies, violations of campus alcohol policies will not necessarily be enforced. The University of Maryland recently endorsed a Good Samaritan Rule for a one-year trial basis. Other colleges, including George Washington University and the University of Virginia, have good Samaritan rules that provide either a break or amnesty to students who seek help in a medical emergency.
The NIAAA College Guidelines for College Drinking: What We Know and What We Need to Learn concludes: “Focus group research can augment understanding of trends identified in surveys of campus populations. Ongoing program evaluations within the institution are crucial to assess the success and impact of any interventions that are developed and initiated by college administrators to reduce alcohol misuse on campus. To design a program once and assume it will continue to be useful, effective, and relevant for years to come is unrealistic.”