CSU Trustees Approve Comprehensive Systemwide Alcohol Policy

(July 11, 2001) -- The California State University Board of Trustees today adopted a system- wide, comprehensive approach to curbing student alcohol abuse at its 23 campus. The policy, the first in the country to be adopted by an entire university system, was developed by the system's Alcohol Policies and Prevention Programs Committee. It calls for consistent enforcement of policies, additional education on alcohol issues, intervention and treatment, a limit on alcohol vendor advertising, and $1.1 million in support funding from the CSU Chancellor's Office.

Chancellor Charles B. Reed formed the committee in December 2000 after the alcohol-related death of a CSU student and two alcohol-poisoning incidents. A preliminary report was given in May 2001 to the trustees.

"This is not a California State University problem. It is a problem at all universities in the nation. This is the most comprehensive set of recommendations and policies I know about in the nation," said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed, who has said that many other problems on campus stem from alcohol abuse.

Chaired by CSU Fresno President John Welty, the committee, which drew members from throughout the university community, recognized that there is no single answer to the problem and that prohibition of alcohol would not be a realistic response. The committee divided the report into six areas: policies; enforcement and legal issues; education and prevention programs; training, intervention and treatment; assessment; and resources.

"The strength of the report is that we had students, faculty, presidents, vice presidents, alumni and other groups represented on the committee. I think we can make a substantial difference," said President Welty. "There's a mythology about student drinking on campuses. Actually, two- thirds of students drink moderately or not at all."

The main recommendation is to develop comprehensive alcohol policies and programs. These would include consistent enforcement of policies; regular gathering and reporting of data to the trustees; annual reviews of policies by a university-wide council; a review of pertinent state laws; education on alcohol issues; intervention and treatment; a limit on alcohol vendor advertising; and systemwide funding support.

One key component of the recommendations is the use of the social norms approach, which uses information campaigns to correct student misperceptions of peers' drinking habits. It also advocates peer education programs through which students encourage their fellow students to develop responsible habits and attitudes regarding alcohol and related issues.

"Since we began, we have been contacted by other universities and institutions across the nation about what we are doing. This approach can help change the culture on our campuses and elsewhere," said Welty.

"Students want to belong to the student community. They believe in order to belong they have to drink as much as every other student drinks," said CSU Chico President Manuel Esteban, who served on the committee. "The myth is they have to drink six, seven or eight drinks. Consequently, they end up drinking to that limit to be like everybody else, when it turns out the average student is drinking far less."

Other recommendations include holding students responsible for their actions, collaborative efforts between campuses and communities, and more alternative activities for students. The CSU will co-sponsor a conference in July 2001 in Anaheim on the social norms approach, which seeks reduce drinking by providing information to students on the realities of alcohol and to dispel many of the myths young people have about college life and drinking to excess.

Contact: Colleen Bentley-Adler, (562) 951-4801, cbentley-adler@calstate.edu

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Last Updated:18 November 2002

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