Broad-based community- and state-level interventions can reduce problems related to alcohol and other drug use and violence and help develop and maintain safe and supportive learning environments.
Colleges and universities are natural allies of community agencies and organizations concerned about alcohol problems, even when they see those problems from different perspectives. Constructing a campus, community, and state environment that will protect students and help them make healthier and safer decisions is challenging work that requires an organized and participatory process to develop, implement, and evaluate a sound strategic plan. This process includes three types of participatory efforts, as follows:
On campus, the college president or chancellor can begin by appointing a permanent task force that represents several important constituencies, including key administrative staff, faculty, and students, and possibly alumni and parents.
A campus task force can address the contributors to problems on campus with alcohol, other drugs, and violence, as well as other issues related to safe and supportive learning environments.
Community-level efforts can include a full coalition that includes both campus and civic leaders. Coalitions provide an opportunity to avoid misunderstandings between the student population and neighboring communities.
Imposing limitations on alcohol consumption on campus, for example, may be seen in the community as an effort to shift a problem to off-campus neighborhoods. For example, the University of Vermont and agencies in the surrounding city of Burlington called their effort the Coalition to Create a Quality Learning Environment, making the point that the learning environment is a responsibility of both the university and the community.
Campus and community coalitions typically represent a wide range of interests from diverse constituencies. Members commit to working toward a common goal, have a shared mission, participate in making decisions about coalition activities, and help identify resources for these activities. By joining in a prevention partnership with community leaders, a college or university can demonstrate that it shares concern about the effects of student drinking beyond its campus boundaries.
A statewide initiative can help mobilize coalitions to engage policy change at the state level. Involving local, regional, and statewide officials to speak out against problems also can raise public awareness and provide a stimulus for broad-based solutions. Beyond that, a strong campus and community coalition at the state level can provide the direction and pressure needed to see effective solutions implemented.
DeJong, W., & Langford, L. M. (2002). A typology for campus-based alcohol prevention: Moving toward environmental management strategies, Journal of Studies on Alcohol (Suppl. 14), 140–147.