DePauw Collaborative and Public Safety Work To Reduce High Risk Drinking

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In response to an increase in instances of high risk drinking on campus, DePauw implemented the DePauw collaborative this fall.

Dean of Campus Life Dorian Shager said, “This collaborative, made up of students, faculty, and staff, focuses on determining the best ways to make DePauw a safer and healthier campus.”  

The collaborative consists of two main groups: BACk Down (Blood Alcohol Concentration), which is comprised of student leaders from a number of organizations on campus and a second group made up of faculty and staff members.

Shager, who heads up the collaborative, explains that its purpose is to focus on effective ways to reduce high risk drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has compiled research using the CollegeAIM (Alcohol Intervention Matrix) tool to discover which interventions are most effective when it comes to reducing high risk drinking behaviors.

Angela Nally, director of Public Safety, states, “They went through a process where they looked at all the interventions and strategies to address alcohol, and one, just one because there are many of them, was to increase enforcement of underage drinking on campus.”

According to George Koob, NIAAA director, in a National Institute of Health press release, “While college officials have numerous options for alcohol interventions, they are not all equally effective. CollegeAIM can help schools choose wisely among available strategies, boosting their chances for success and helping them improve the health and safety of their students.”  

With the help of CollegeAIM, DePauw has been able to determine which intervention methods will work best on this campus. The collaboration went through a process where they looked at all of the potential strategies and interventions, focusing on both their effectiveness and cost.

Shager explains that one of the most highly effective interventions comes in the form of enforcement of underage drinking laws. Whereas DePauw has heavily relied on community standards methods in the past, an increase in enforcement of underage drinking via Public Safety is likely to have more of an effect on high risk drinking.

“What we have to do is address some of our really scary alcohol statistics,” Nally said. “When we have people going to the hospital with a .4 or higher, it’s really time to look at interventions in a different way.”

Nally emphasizes that this is not a change in policy, but more of a change in Public Safety practice.

“Basically, we’re just going to increase the use of our criminal justice system, so we’ve always have had access to both systems, we have used both systems, we’ve just leaned more heavily on community standards than we have on the criminal justice system,” Nally said. “What you can expect to see is increased use of the criminal justice system.”

The Public Safety Advisory Board also contributed to this change of practice. According to Nally, these advisors endorsed an increased use of the criminal justice system to lower high risk drinking on campus.

In student terms, this means an increase in citations for minors in consumption. However, it’s important to understand that the way Public Safety interacts with students isn’t going to change.  

“Our primary focus has always been on safety. If someone calls public safety because a friend is highly intoxicated, no one will be getting cited into court. The priority is the health and safety of our students,” Nally said.

Still, some students are still uncertain over these new changes to Public Safety practices.
“I think that now people are going to be so much less likely to call Public Safety even in a time of need,”said sophomore Hanna Wade. “People will be less likely to stay around and help their friend out because if they’re around that could affect them more severely than before.”