Cracking down on alcohol is harder than it may seem

Some policies have been subject to criticism

Many colleges and universities are trying to crack down on alcohol consumption on campus, but changing student behavior can be difficult. The New York Times sent reporters to campuses throughout the country to look into the effect of new policies. 

University of Michigan

Student volunteers at the University of Michigan patrol parties attended by members of the campus Greek system to swoop in when violations occur. The school's Greek system has vowed to self-police. "Sober monitors" refrain from alcohol and prevent partiers from using kegs of alcohol or engaging in other risky behaviors such as sitting on the roof. There are also new rules in place for game days.

Boston University

Boston University (BU) doesn't have a football team, but the city is a hub for major-league sporting events. Where there are sports there are parties, and where there are parties there is bound to be alcohol. 

In 2011, BU police began patrolling liquor stores to seek out students with fake IDs or those purchasing alcohol for people under the age of 21. Students who are caught can lose scholarship money or student housing or face athletic sanctions.

Since starting the program, the number of ambulances being called for students because of drunkenness has been cut in half. But cases of binge drinking and sexual assault persist.

Stanford University

Over the summer, Stanford University announced changes to its alcohol policy that aim to cut down on high-risk behavior. Under the new rules, hard liquor is now prohibited from on-campus parties.

While beer and wine are still allowed, straight shots of hard alcohol are banned from all gatherings. In dorms, students ages 21 and older may only have bottles of liquor in bottles smaller than 750 mL. Those who violate the policy face administrative action or could be removed from on-campus housing.

The university has faced resistance from students—some say their resident assistants openly refuse to enforce the new policy. 

However, officials also say that early data is promising: alcohol-related transports of students were three to four times lower in the first few weeks of fall quarter than they were during the same time period in previous years.

Indiana University

Indiana University (IU) implemented a policy this fall banning hard liquor at fraternity houses following accusations last year of a sexual assault at one now-shuttered house. The move aligns with some research findings that limiting campus alcohol can reduce the rate of sexual violence.

However, it's much harder for universities to control off-campus drinking, and IU's students have a strong off-campus drinking culture at the three bars within walking distance of campus (Bosman et al., New York Times, 10/29). 

3 ways to make your alcohol policy more effective


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