A survey conducted in 2012 by faculty in the Center for Alcohol & Addiction Studies of undergraduate students' behavior and perceptions of alcohol use at Brown provided a level of comprehensive data from which we could reevaluate the environment at Brown. This survey informed and was followed by an external review in 2013-2014, in which two nationally-recognized prevention experts helped us examine programs, policies, and opportunities for improvement at Brown.
2014-2015 Alcohol & Social Event Review
For 2014-2015, a committee of students, staff, and faculty was asked to review Brown's social event related policies for clarity and impact, to examine the barriers to proper registration of social events by students, and to recommend improvements, all informed by the survey data and the external consultants' assessment and recommendations. In the fall of 2014, a number of campus incidents, particularly issues related to sexual assault at unregistered social events in residential facilities, resulted in the University’s implementation of interim measures around social event registration and influenced the charge of the review committee. It is important to note, that while alcohol is a common factor in cases of sexual assault, alcohol in and of itself is not a cause of sexual assault and the two issues should not be conflated.
The review committee engaged in lively dialogue about the specifics of the event registration policy, the use of residential facilities for social events, and what a “safe event” looks like. Members of the committee also held meetings with students involved at the Brown Center for Students of Color, students engaged in the LGBTQ community, and students living in Greek and Program Housing. Committee members had the opportunity to hear from, and were deeply struck by the stories of, students about the impact of social events held in residential facilities and the impacts of the interim restriction on such events. Throughout all of these conversations, a number of issues related to the culture of alcohol use arose and informed the recommendations.
The committee agreed that Brown’s longstanding harm reduction approach to alcohol should be maintained, and that many programs and policies in place are effective and do not require overhaul.
The potential for greater impact lies in the following areas:
- Examining more closely the culture of alcohol use at Brown, especially in communities where we know from data that the highest risk behavior is occurring, and related interventions which might shift this culture.
The recommendations that address aspects of Greek life and Program Housing and of student involvement in Athletics are informed by the survey data demonstrating higher risk at Brown and provide additional support for these communities.
- Securing resources and programs which would increase access to safe social event spaces for students, including both spaces where alcohol is served and alcohol free alternatives.
The various recommendations to provide additional University support for event management, as well as specifying and restricting locations for events, are in this category.
- Increasing the clarity of policies, procedures, and available resources around these issues, including the consistency of enforcement and consequences for violations.
- Addressing the needs of students who do not consume alcohol for one reason or another and making sure that Brown provides a safe and vibrant community in which they can live and learn.
The committee's recommendations follow from these four themes and may be read in full in the committee's report.
Like any major campus issue, the culture around alcohol use is embedded in a larger societal context, and any change in this culture will be incremental over time. However, we do believe that the recommendations in the report are steps in the right direction in achieving our goals. The recommendations have been accepted and many are already in process.
The committee identified a number of very important, complex issues that will continue to guide discussion as well as evaluation of the impact of changes undertaken for 2015-2016.