To do that, President Jim Yong Kim says colleges need to test new strategies, scientifically measure the results and share their findings. This week Kim, a doctor and humanitarian who has led Dartmouth since 2009, announced the formation of the national Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking.
So far, 14 universities have signed up, and Kim hopes at least 20 will be present at the first meeting this summer. The list includes Cornell, Duke, Northwestern, Boston, Princeton and Stanford universities — plus Frostburg State University in Western Maryland, which has been fighting a party school reputation for years.
Frostburg President Jonathan Gibralter told me this morning that he’s proud of the progress the campus has made in the past few years by partnering with local law enforcement, bar owners, neighbors, landlords, students and others.
“It’s not like we’ve put millions of dollars into this,” said Gibralter, who became president in 2006 and quickly made reducing binge drinking a top priority. (Binge drinking is defined as five drinks in about two hours for men, and four drinks for women.)
The fight against dangerous drinking starts at open houses with prospective students and their parents. The message: Despite what you might have heard, this is not a party school.
The message is repeated at freshmen orientation and when incoming students take an online alcohol education class. If that doesn’t get through to them, then students might learn the hard way when police actively break up off-campus parties and administrators notify parents of nearly all alcohol-related infractions.
Gibralter said it’s working.
In 2009, 43 percent of Frostburg students reported to a national survey that they had binge drank in the previous two weeks — down from 59 percent in 1997. Students also reported drinking less overall: In 1997, they drank an average of 9.5 drinks a week. In, 2009 it was just over five.
The number of off-campus citations has dropped in the past five years, and the university judicial systems sees fewer students get in trouble for alcohol-related reasons more than once.
“Students views about alcohol really do change the more you educate them,” he said. “I’ve never told students they shouldn’t drink or can’t drink.” They just have to do so responsibly.