Alcohol and drug policy report recommends broad emphasis on prevention

Treatment and urgent-care services are found to be effective; investment in education and social environment is encouraged

President Fred Lawrence today released the report of ad hoc Committee on Alcohol and Drug Policy, and administrators now are considering next steps toward the committee’s goal of enhancing the health and safety of the community.

The report concludes that Brandeis has an effective system to deal with urgent health and safety issues on campus and offers excellent treatment services for students identified as being at-risk for alcohol and drug problems. It recommends a broad range of efforts to reinforce education and diagnostic capacity and to further develop a social environment that discourages substance abuse.

In releasing the report, the president noted that “the use and abuse of alcohol on college and university campuses locally and across the country has been well documented and is of great concern to all of us.”

He applauded the committee for its diligence and commitment and called for “a thoughtful extension of its efforts.”

To that end, Lawrence said, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel “will assemble working groups to determine how best to integrate the committee’s recommendations into the life of the university.” Lawrence added that “student voices, which were integral to the committee’s work, will be a vital component of this phase as well.”

Flagel welcomed the committee’s work and said that “given the talent and capacity of our faculty and staff, there is an opportunity for Brandeis to be a leader, a national model” in dealing with this area of concern.

The committee was created in autumn of last year by then-President Jehuda Reinharz in response to incidents that occurred during fall semester. The group was comprised of faculty, students and administrators, and was assisted by health policy and alcohol researchers from the Institute for Behavioral Health in the Heller School of Social Policy and Management.

“Brandeis is already doing a great deal,” said Professor Len Saxe, the committee chair, “but the problem persists. We need to learn from other schools and the latest research how to do everything possible to create a healthy, positive environment.”

Saxe, the Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies, specializes in human behavior and social policy. His research includes studies of community substance abuse programs.

The committee stresses in its report that it did not attempt to assess the extent of alcohol and drug use at Brandeis, to determine whether the situation is improving or deteriorating, or to gauge whether the situation at Brandeis is better or worse than at other schools.

“We took the position that the health and safety of each student is important… (and) considered ways to enhance current policy to protect each student and community member,” the report says.

The committee found that Brandeis offers high-quality prevention and education programs focusing on entering freshmen, high-risk users and upperclassmen. “That said, more can be done,” the report states, “and it will likely require that additional resources be devoted to these educational endeavors.”

The panel also called for efforts to reassure students about how information obtained by university police and the student-run Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps is handled, particularly to allay concerns about the information being released to parents or academic advisers. It advocated a strong effort to make clear to students that, after an incident,  “follow-up by the university is intended to be educational and preventative, rather than judicial.” 

Noting the demonstrated high effectiveness of peer education in preventing harmful alcohol and drug use, the committee recommended provision of additional resources to Peers Educating about Responsible Choices, the existing drug and alcohol peer education group, with the intention of involving more juniors and seniors as peer educators and role models.

Broader education of staff members who deal with students and their problems also is endorsed.

The report puts strong emphasis on prevention throughout.

Investing in preventive services “is cost-effective and should be a top priority,” the report states. It recommends an on-line alcohol education course for all incoming students and proposes that the course be mandatory for violators of campus alcohol policy.

Still, enhancing students’ living environment and promoting positive Brandeis values may be more important than increasing direct services in reducing harmful alcohol and drug use, the committee concludes.

To this end, the committee recommends that Brandeis consider offering a broader range of on-campus social options and education and cultural events. “In addition,” the report states, “a richer set of off-campus events available to undergraduates should be developed, including discounted trips, museum and theater visits.”

Categories: General, Student Life

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