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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
college policies affecting access to alcohol on campus—for instance, whether a residence hall is wet or dry and whether a college has an alcohol ban on the campus—generally decrease the frequency of student alcohol use, heavy drinking, and frequent heavy drinking (Wechsler et al., 2001a, 2001c; Weitzman et al., 2003a).
Consistent Policy Enforcement and Application of Sanctions
Research investigating student sentiment toward alcohol policies and laws consistently documents support for policies that control underage drinking (Wechsler et al., 2002). Within the college environment there are multiple agents for enforcement, including campus police and safety officers, residence housing personnel, residence-based student paraprofessionals, athletic team coaches, academic advisers, sponsors of student organizations, and fraternity and sorority advisers. Despite these multiple opportunities for intervention, enforcement is often left to one or two of these groups (e.g., campus police, residential life professional staff), or enforcement occurs only among some staff within a group. Often these individuals are hesitant to hold college students accountable for their behavior, as they may view the university sanctioning process as punitive or inconsistent with their roles as mentors and advisers for students. Such a circumstance creates inconsistent enforcement of policies and sends mixed messages to students.
Colleges should pursue strategies to strengthen linkages between policy and enforcement. The judicial process on many college campuses offers an important—and underutilized—opportunity to send consistent messages to students and ensure that intervention programs reach students whose drinking has become a problem for the campus. Interventions based upon motivational enhancement, skill development, and normative clarification can promote values that are consistent with the values already found within the university culture.
The Higher Education Amendments of 1998 provide assistance to colleges and universities in their efforts to address student alcohol and other drug use. Section 952 clarified that institutions of higher education are allowed (but not required) to notify parents if a student under the age of 21 at the time of notification commits a disciplinary violation involving alcohol or a controlled substance. The U.S. Department of Education’s final regulations issued in 2000 further clarified the intent of the 1998 amendment, stating that campus officials may notify parents whenever they determine that a disciplinary violation has occurred and that those determina-