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College Drinking Prevention - Changing the Culture

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Defining An Institution's Culture And Values

Fundamental to addressing the issues of alcohol use and abuse is a clear understanding of the mission and philosophy of a given institution. While all schools must comply with State and Federal laws, no single policy can cut across the 3,000+ institutions of higher learning; they simply are too different (Gulland, 1994).

For example, colleges and universities founded upon religious principles will naturally draw upon different philosophies than publicly supported research universities. Those institutions that are residential in nature and focus on the social, personal and emotional development of students as well as their intellectual growth will differ from those commuter institutions that primarily serve the academic and vocational development of their students. Schools serving the traditional college-aged population (i.e., 18-22) will face different challenges and environments than those institutions with students mostly older than 21.

Schools with academic programs closely associated with the hospitality field will of course include the topic of legal beverages as part of their curriculum just as colleges of agriculture may have viticulture in their course of studies. Some schools will permit no information about alcohol in the curriculum, especially in a positive context, yet those with majors in food science or nutrition may have a serious body of research to report.

Aside from these clearly defined differences of history, mission or demographics, to name but a few, schools will differ in their basic approach to student life. Those with a philosophy of ‘freedom with responsibility’ will naturally differ from those with a strict orientation toward discipline. Such philosophic differences often include approaches to parent involvement in the academic lives of their children and their awareness of judicial matters and inclusion in addressing behavioral concerns, with the range being from considerable involvement to virtually none. Those institutions whose judicial codes are grounded in an educational approach will differ from those whose disciplinary orientation is one of punishment. It is in the context of such philosophic approaches that a policy addressing alcohol use must be defined. For if the alcohol policy is to have true meaning, and be accepted by the campus community, it must be seen as consonant with the mission and fundamental values of the school and the general orientation to other policies and programs.

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Last reviewed: 9/23/2005


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