IATF - Member Initiatives
Inter-Association Task Force
on Alcohol and Other Substance Abuse Issues
In 1985 after the first Inter-Association Task Force national conference the U.S. Department of Education initiated the university alcohol education component of the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE). As a call to action in its focus on prevention through education, intervention and treatment, the government agency provided millions of dollars for alcohol education programs on campuses throughout the country. Those funds for alcohol education were significantly reduced in 1996.
Member organizations of the IATF, however, actively continue to initiate, promote, and sponsor measures in higher education that strive toward solutions. Since 1991 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has awarded seventy-seven CHOICES grants to member institutions for implementing and evaluating alcohol-education and prevention programs. Many of the programs use athletics, student-athletes or related events and target most or all students, not just athletes. The NCAA encourages collaboration between a school’s athletics department and other campus organizations involved in alcohol education. Institutions can apply for grants up to $30,000 over three years. Alternative athletic and activities programs, peer education and outreach, scenario/value judgment exercises, presentations by student-athletes, and mentor training are among the kinds of projects that have been funded.
The NCAA also offers for some fifty educators each year the Professional in Residence Program at the Betty Ford Center, a leader in the treatment of alcohol and other drug dependence. Participants, who are key policy decision-makers at their universities, spend three and a half days getting an “insider” view of the center’s treatment plan for dependent people that helps them better understand the disease of addiction and treatment options. They attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, hear staff presentations, and spend hours immersed with patients at meals, group therapy, and peer-group sessions. At least 400 university people have now participated.
TEAM (Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management), a national coalition of major sports leagues and other groups to which the NCAA belongs, helps develop policies and programs about alcohol consumption at athletics events with regard to effective management of stadiums and other facilities.
Binge Drinking—A Suspect Term?
The popular term “binge drinking” is used regularly to describe collegiate alcohol abuse in the media, by speakers, and by researchers. But some students at the Inter-Association Task Force’s conference in Williamsburg argued that the term, defined as five or more drinks at a single session, is irrelevant and inaccurate. Sharing a pitcher of beer or having five drinks over the course of a lengthy evening is not necessarily alcohol abuse. The problem, they say, is a campus culture that encourages students to drink until they are drunk — to drink, on purpose, to excess.
The National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) promotes the use of campus recreational options and facilities as an alternative to alcohol through its “NIRSA Natural High” initiative, which emphasizes health and wellness as well. Other organizations, such as the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I), are moving alcohol out of dormitories and other residential quarters where underage and legal-age students live together by promoting substance-free housing options on campuses. While the association does not have specific data yet, it is clear that more schools are providing such housing, at the request of both parents and students, and with great success. Reports indicate as well that the amount of alcohol permitted in housing owned or operated by colleges and universities has decreased dramatically since 1985.
Because of growing concern about the image and future of the Greek-letter community across the country, the National Interfraternity Conference (NIC) is sponsoring “Select 2000,” an effort to reintroduce the values of fraternal life—scholarship, ethical leadership, honesty, integrity and individual responsibility—into the daily affairs of chapters and their members, with binge drinking no part of those values. Providing a safe, healthy environment is one goal of the program and includes an endeavor to have NIC’s 64 national men’s fraternities choose to provide substance-free housing by the year 2000 and to include substance-free events as part of each chapter’s social programming. The conference also sponsors Our Chapter, Our Choice, a peer education program in which student facilitators lead scenario-type activities designed to help redefine acceptable behavior related to alcohol and drug use. NIC’s Alcohol Advisory Committee comprises national fraternity presidents and executive directors.
While sorority houses are traditionally substance-free, the women also traditionally go to fraternity houses to drink. The National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) is working with campus communities and individual fraternities to sup-port a return to fraternal values and reduced emphasis on alcohol through a joint NPC/NIC Task Force on Alcohol-Free Housing. NPC offers its member groups the Alohol 101 Educational Program produced by the University of Illinois and The Century Council, and an alcohol and other drug awareness project is being piloted with the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention.
All fraternity and sorority members pay a premium with their dues to participate in the Fraternity Insurance Purchas-ing Group, a risk-management system. NIC and NPC offer risk-management guidelines for member chapters. The National Pan-Hellenic Council prohibits the sale or consumption of alcohol at any member-sponsored event on campus or at any student residence or facility.
Whether to celebrate the end of finals, a 21st birthday or spring or simply to party because they are in college, it is the excess, not the number of drinks, that defines alcohol abuse. On the other hand, said Penn State University President Graham B. Spanier,
“Don’t underestimate the importance of having a simple term like binge drinking that the public and freshmen can understand.”
Other IATF-member organizations continue to support peer education and assessment training, promote overall health and wellness, and advocate for sensitive intervention and treatment measures through college health services and other on-campus agencies.