As institutions of higher education entered the decade of the 1980s, it became increasingly apparent that existing efforts to reduce alcohol and drug abuse on the campuses were not achieving the desired results. Campus leaders continued to identify the misuse of alcohol as a primary institutional concern for the future success of the students they served. In recognition of this growing concern, a group of individuals gathered together to discuss the ways higher education might more effectively address the problems associated with alcohol abuse and to create a more unified and effective approach to building awareness and campus-wide support for prevention programming.
The original leaders in this effort included: Dennis Roberts representing the American College Personnel Association (ACPA); Tom Aceto of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA); Paul Oliaro from the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I); and Gerardo Gonzales, the Executive Director of BACCHUS. Two of the BACCHUS board members were also instrumental in this early effort. They were Dr. Thomas Goodale, vice president for student affairs at the University of Denver, and Gary North, director of residence life at the University of Illinois.
These founding individuals formed an umbrella organization which operates today as the Inter-Association Task Force on Alcohol and Other Substance Abuse Issues (IATF). The group held its first meeting in Gainesville, Florida, in 1982. That original meeting was the springboard for what has become a very far reaching organization. This task force was composed of representatives from the following organizations: The American College Personnel Association (ACPA), The Association of College and University Housing Officers- International (ACUHO-I), the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), National Association of Campus Activities (NACA), National Association of College and University Residence Halls, Inc. (NACURH), the United States Student Association (USSA), and BACCHUS of the U.S., Inc.
The IATF has grown into a coalition of higher education associations and organizations that seeks to eradicate the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, legal and illegal drugs and other substances among college students. It strives to inspire students to review their lifestyles and make informed decisions regarding these substances. The Task Force supports teaching college students life skills that will enable them to be successful in college and afterwards.
And, the membership of the IATF has grown tremendously! Numerous organizations active in the higher education arena have made a commitment to provide the leadership for these special events. These organizations are:
Dr. Edward Hammond, then vice president for student affairs at the University of Louisville, now the president of Fort Hays State University, emerged as the driving force for NCAAW. Dr. Hammond has served as the national chair of the event for many years and continues to provide the vision and leadership to expand the program on college campuses across the United States and Canada.
With the success of NCAAW, National Collegiate Drug Awareness Week soon followed. In the 1990s, however, NCDAW began to evolve away from an event exclusively aimed at illicit drug awareness and prevention and more toward a general "wellness" focus. Four years ago, the IATF voted to officially retire "Drug Awareness Week" in favor of "National Collegiate Health and Wellness Week." The response was tremendous as schools began to conduct focused educational programming for a week each Spring on topics as diverse as nutrition, exercise, drugs and alcohol, multi-culturalism, smoking, and any number of other topics. NCHWW allowed schools to educate on the issues that most impacted them.
Now with NCAAW firmly rooted and NCHWW gaining stronger attention each year, the focus in higher education has shifted to encourage institutions to provide quality education, intervention and prevention on a year-round basis. At the heart of these combined efforts is the ultimate goal to developing environments which encourage and support responsible decision making, and which emphasize the legal, moral, and ethical components of responsibility in the decision-making process. In sponsoring these two international observances each year, the IATF hopes to strengthen each campus community's dedication to these goals.
In addition, the IATF sponsors awards to campuses with outstanding NCAAW programs, promotes an NCAAW campaign poster competition, and consults with the alcohol beverage industry to insure the most responsible standards of marketing and product orientation.
NCAAW continues to be the Task Force's most widely recognized event. When NCAAW first began, only 250 campuses were on the active participation list. Now, more than 3,000 schools - from community and technical colleges to major research universities - participate to some extent each year! Today, NCAAW and NCHWW stand proudly as the most widely celebrated events in all of higher education.
The history of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week and National Collegiate Health and Wellness Week is one of continual growth and improvement. At the heart of this successful effort is an army of committed individuals on campuses throughout North America who have identified the issue of student health as one which deserves their hard work and expertise. The future of these events will be measured by the ability of these individuals to bring to bear all of the resources, efforts and energy necessary to continue to keep the issue before the academic community and the nation.