Are Your Alcohol and Drug Policies Up-To-Date?

Your school must meet mandates intended to prevent alcohol and drug abuse, violence, exploitation, and discrimination to remain eligible for Federal education funds—and efforts that aren’t documented won’t help maintain your certification. Under Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) Part 86 (the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Act), schools are required to provide drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs and review those programs every two years. The Part 86 biennial review can be a springboard for making sure your policies are current.

  • Government regulations and medical science constantly change, so make sure your drug and alcohol policies are up-to-date.
  • Drug and alcohol prevention research is ongoing. Make sure your policies reflect current knowledge.
  • Survey student attitudes, perceptions, and behavior about alcohol and drugs to make sure your programs are addressing their real risks and issues.
  • To be effective, policies must also be enforced. Get input on how well the school’s alcohol and drug policies are implemented.
  • The biennial review requires you to recommend revisions, so if you find your program falls short, investigate ways to improve.

Engage the Campus Community

Typically, a school forms a task force for the Part 86 biennial review, and this is a good vehicle for any review of drug and alcohol policies. A strong task force should include student, faculty, health services, safety, and residence staff—the people who live with, implement, and enforce campus rules and regulations. Their experience with existing policies and how those policies work—or don’t—can help the task force draft more effective and realistic measures. Circulating the draft policies for community-wide review can help fix problems and gain greater buy-in.

Use Your Data

Information is vital to keeping your prevention programming current. Data from the Core Institute and National College Health Assessment surveys, your campus health center, and security records can help you develop an accurate picture of drug and alcohol use at your school. MyStudentBody can help, too. Regularly updated, MyStudentBody contains the most current information about drug and alcohol use and risks. And because we’re always reviewing prevention research, it’s also based on the most current knowledge about what’s effective. MyStudentBody provides you with data on how many of your students have completed the Essentials and Student Conduct courses, as well as information on current student perceptions and patterns of drug and alcohol use—tools to help you keep your programming up to date and targeted at your student population.

Spread the Word

For policies to be effective, students and staff need to know about them. Of course they should be printed in the college catalog and new-student materials and posted on the college website; but it’s also important to get the word out about specific policies at relevant times. If you have a policy against alcohol in the tailgate area, be sure that’s in the game announcement, on the team blog, circulated as a text message before the game, posted at the stadium parking lot and ticket counter.

Consider this tactic from Virginia Tech: the school posts both its formal policy and a “plain English version”. The latter spells out the violations and sanctions in short declarative sentences, starting with: “If you are under 21, it is illegal for you to drink.”

Make sure staff also know the policies, especially if they’re charged with enforcing them. The employee website, locker rooms, HR announcements, and staff handbooks can help get the message out.

References

College Alcohol Policies (searchable database of college alcohol policies). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/policies/default.aspx 

Davidson L, DeJong C. (2004). The role of state, community, and institutional policy in the prevention of college alcohol problems, Prevention Updates. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://www.higheredcenter.org/pubs/prev-updates/swi.html 

DeJong W, and Langenbahn S. (1995). Setting and Improving Policies for Reducing Alcohol and Other Drug Problems on Campus: A Guide for School Administrators. United Stated Department of Education, Higher Education Center. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://www.higheredcenter.org/services/publications/setting-and-improving-policies-reducing-alcohol-and-other-drug-problems-campus 

Faden VB, Baskin ML. (2003). Evaluation of College Alcohol Policies: An Evaluation of College Online Alcohol-Policy Information. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/CollegePresidents/evalCollegeAlcoholPolicies.aspx 

Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention. (2006). Complying with the drug-free schools and campuses regulations [EDGAR part 86]: A guide for university and college administrators. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://www.higheredcenter.org/files/product/dfscr.pdf 

Kuh G. (1994). The influence of college environments on student drinking. In Gonzalez, G., & Clement, L. (Eds.), Research and intervention: Preventing substance abuse in higher education department of education. Washington D.C.; Government Printing Office.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA). (2007, March). Wasting the Best and the Brightest: Substance Abuse at America’s Colleges and Universities. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://www.casacolumbia.org/download.aspx?path=/UploadedFiles/b1kms01k.pdf 

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). (2002). A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges. Retrieved August 14, 2007, from http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/NIAAACollegeMaterials/TaskForce/TaskForce_TOC.aspx 

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Virginia Tech Alcohol Policies (Plain English Version). Retrieved December 1, 2011, from http://www.alcohol.vt.edu/Policies/vtPolicies.htm 

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We are generally using MyStudentBody for judicial violations, but we hope to continue to expand use of the program for non-policy violating students. I am especially pleased with the personal service offered."

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