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View From The President's Office: The Leadership Of Change



"It is vital that presidents form a campus-wide task force with a clear mandate to examine every aspect of the academic environment and how it might affect student alcohol abuse, and to recommend sweeping changes…Presidents should also launch a formal campus-community coalition to address community-wide issues."

DeJong, 1998


In the context of alcohol-related organizational change, addressing structure involves two elements: (1) establishing a mechanism for planning and overseeing the change and (2) aligning the organizational structure and/or relationships of the university as needed with the new priorities.

While specific structures vary to fit the individual situations of each university, most interviewees reported using some form of campus or campus/community task force to plan, steer, and assess alcohol initiatives. Schools that received grant support for their efforts, such as the University of Vermont and the Louisiana State University, have more intensive, ongoing task force activities. At Vermont, for example, the steering group meets every 3 to 4 weeks and includes Coordinator Rick Culliton; the Vice President for Student Affairs; the Directors of Residential Life, Student Life, and Student Health Center; the Campus Chief of Police; representatives of student government and the faculty; representatives of the Burlington Police Department and Mayor's Office; and the Director of the State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division of the State Health Department.

"These folks are the main points of responsibility for implementing policies and programs, so it's been important to have them involved in planning and monitoring as well," notes Rick Culliton. "But we are also looking ahead to when our grant funding ends. Participating on the steering group has helped ground members in the issues and accustomed them to working together and understanding each other's needs. This preparation will facilitate the continuation of efforts after the grant."

In some settings, some members of a task force also report to campus administrators with key alcohol responsibilities. For example, Louisiana State has a large campus/community coalition with an executive board and five task groups that report to it. Coordinator Dr. Nancy Matthews is the director of the executive board, and she reports to the director of the Student Health Center, who has key responsibility for alcohol issues on the LSU campuses.

The Presidents Leadership Group addressed the second structural issue in organizational change when it recommended that, "College presidents should lead a broad exploration of their institution's infrastructure and the basic premises of its educational program to see how they affect alcohol and other drug use" (Presidents Leadership Group, 1997). Among those interviewed, this has most commonly meant what former President Ramaley calls, "Changing our communication patterns—who talks to whom about what. Getting all the stakeholders talking to each other forges new administrative interactions and actions, because universities are fueled by ideas and data." The University of Vermont has also addressed infrastructure concerns by increasing the availability of substance-free housing and revising its approach to providing alcohol education and counseling to fit the new priorities.

Another aspect of the infrastructure that many universities are considering is their student activities programs. At the University of Puget Sound, for example, the directors of Dining Services and Student Affairs are reviewing alcohol-free activities available to students. President Pierce notes that, "We're considering making the dining halls a weekend, nonalcoholic destination by having them stay open through the early morning hours when students often socialize. The key will be getting student input to tell us what would appeal to them."

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Last reviewed: 9/23/2005

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