WU to join peer institutions in addressing alcohol education on campus

| Contributing Reporter

School administrators are taking a new approach in addressing alcohol education and culture on campus.

Washington University is joining 31 other institutions—including Dartmouth, Princeton, and Vanderbilt Universities—in the national Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking, a program intended to tackle alcohol-related problems among college students.

The program was launched in April by the National College Health Improvement Project (NCHIP). It aims to improve the health and well-being of college students through the collaborative effort of peer institutions.

The University paid approximately $20,000 to join the program. The cost covers administrative expenses and training and maintains NCHIP’s support team of public health and clinical research experts. The amount does not include the travel expenses for administrators to attend the semiannual meetings.

Numerous colleges involved have already begun to implement the program. Parents of this year’s freshman class received a letter during the summer from Chancellor Wrighton encouraging them to discuss alcohol use with their sons and daughters.

“We decided to participate in the NCHIP program because we believe it is important to continue to work to avoid alcohol abuse at Washington University,” Wrighton said.

The letter highlighted the “life-altering consequences” that may result “because of a poor decision made while under the influence of alcohol.” It encouraged students to drink moderately or refrain from alcohol use altogether.

In addition to administrators, Student Union members are also involved in the program. SU President John Harrison York and Senator Josh Aiken represent the student body as members of the steering committee of NCHIP.

“Student Union has joined the committee to ensure that student input is involved and at the center of any measures taken,” York said.

According to York, administrators are thinking of forming a larger student advisory committee to serve alongside the steering committee.

The Learning Collaborative is an 18-month program in which leading experts and representatives from participating colleges meet twice a year to discuss ideas for tackling alcohol-related university issues. The first “learning session” was held at Dartmouth College from June 29 to July 1, and a second session will be held in Austin, Texas, in January.

Each learning session will focus on a specific aspect of college high-risk drinking, including “The Individual,” “The Environment” and “The Policy System.”

NCHIP also holds virtual meetings every month for school officials to share the outcomes of various approaches they have tried on their campuses.

One strategy proposed at the last learning session would involve students’ primary physicians in the process, according to Justin Anderson, director of media relations at Dartmouth College.

In the plan, physicians would be required to hold “pre-interventions” with students who show signs of alcohol abuse.

The Chancellor acknowledged that the new program will take a long time to be fully implemented.

“[The program] requires new effort every year, as we work with a new group of entering students,” Wrighton said in his letter.