President Ronald J. Daniels announced in an email on Aug. 19 that the University will begin working to curb student alcohol abuse in response to Maryland College Alcohol Survey results published in July.
The survey, co-chaired by Daniels and Chancellor William E. Kirwan of the University of Maryland system, found that nearly half of undergraduate students at nine Maryland schools had engaged in binge drinking, which was defined as “consuming four or five drinks in a row or within two hours for females and males, respectively.”
“The results of the Maryland College Alcohol Survey … affirm our belief that campus alcohol abuse stands as a serious and urgent matter,” Daniels wrote in his email. “At Johns Hopkins, we hold a bedrock belief that we must safeguard the health and well-being of our community at all times.”
Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger has assembled an Alcohol Strategy Group, which will meet bimonthly to discuss how to promote safer alcohol use on campus.
The group’s members, at the time of publication, are Shollenberger, Dean of Student Life Terry Martinez, Student Health & Wellness Director Dr. Alain Joffe, Associate Director of the Center for Health, Education & Wellness (CHEW) Barbara Schubert, Office of Community Affairs Director Jennifer Mielke, Chief Risk Officer Jon Links, Vice President for Corporate Security Keith Hill, Associate Dean of Student Life Dorothy Sheppard, Assistant Director of Athletics for Game Operations Kelsie Gory and Associate General Counsel Gerard St. Ours.
“Additionally, the committee will work with representatives from the Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking — specifically our colleagues at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, which administered the study, and will engage the expertise of other faculty members as appropriate,” Erin Yun, deputy to the Vice Provost for Student Affairs, wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Shollenberger’s committee will also seek advice from students to get a better understanding of alcohol abuse at Hopkins.
“We will be composing a student subcommittee and will be reaching out to the student body to identify interested individuals,” Yun wrote. “Students should look for a call for participation on this subcommittee.”
Daniels’s letter stated that the University’s primary area of concern is alcohol abuse at off-campus parties.
“This spring, we took strong action to resolve a chronic problem with one off-campus residence, and we will continue to hold our students accountable for violations of our alcohol policies,” Daniels wrote. “We also are exploring strategies for monitoring and communicating with student groups about off-campus events.”
Shollenberger’s committee plans to work with students to devise strategies that the administration can use to address dangerous, alcohol-related situations at student gatherings, whether located on private property or in commercial establishments.
“We are reviewing our practices regarding off-campus parties held by student organizations, how we can help ensure safe events for them, and help them consider the responsibilities hosts have in these situations,” Yun wrote.
Daniels’s letter also mentioned the Maryland College Alcohol Survey’s finding that alcohol is easily accessible to underage students at both private parties and off-campus establishments. The University hopes to work with local businesses to decrease underage students’ access to alcohol.
“We are encouraging businesses to be more attentive to fake IDs as well as not serving students who are intoxicated,” Yun wrote. “The University has regular contact with local community associations and we will continue to foster these relationships.”
In his letter, Daniels stressed that it will be important for students to take personal responsibility so as to ensure their safety and the safety of others when drinking at parties.
“When addressing these important issues, we will rely on our students,” Daniels wrote. “We will look to student leaders across the campus — from Greek life, athletic teams, and student government to theater groups, dance troupes, and advocacy or volunteer organizations — to propel our efforts and to take on the challenge of making college life safer for themselves and for each other.”
The administration also hopes to improve and expand existing alcohol education programs. CHEW and the Office of Residential Life will institute the Brief Alcohol Assessment and Intervention for College Students (BASICS) program for students who are deemed to be at risk for alcohol abuse.
“BASICS is a tool to assist students in examining their drinking and other drug-use behavior in a judgment-free environment,” Schubert wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
The Freshman Orientation program also included a mandatory educational session that discussed substance abuse; however, attendance was not monitored.
“We have already expanded existing training and programs. However, we need to do more and the committee’s work in this area has just started,” Yun wrote. “As the opportunities are further developed we will be sharing them with the University community as appropriate.”
Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a continuing series on the University’s efforts to curtail student alcohol abuse. Next week, The News-Letter will explore the BASICS program and the University’s changing approach to alcohol education in depth.