University News

UCS reviews history of alcohol policy change

Council discusses campus-wide alcohol survey that indicated high rate of binge drinking at Brown

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 19, 2015

UCS Vice President Sazzy Gourley ’16, UCS President Maahika Srinivasan ’15 and Senior Director for Planning and Student Engagement MaryLou McMillan discussed alcohol policy.

Senior Director for Planning and Student Engagement MaryLou McMillan presented data from the 2011-2012 campus-wide survey on alcohol habits to the Undergraduate Council of Students at its general body meeting Wednesday.

At the council’s Feb. 4 general body meeting focused on the interim alcohol policy changes, administrators noted that results of the survey prompted concern and reevaluation of alcohol policy.

Contrary to perceptions that “drinking at Brown is very much like any place elsewhere,” the data does not “quite match elsewhere,” McMillan said. Forty-five percent of Brown students had five or more drinks in a two-hour span during the two weeks prior to completing the survey, compared to 36 percent of college students across the country, according to the National College Health Assessment.

The survey results indicated a higher drinking rate among seniors than expected, McMillan said.

But several UCS general body members said they were not surprised by the results. Many members said they expected the 53 percent pregaming rate indicated by the study to be higher amongst the entire student body.

College students, especially those living in a first-year dorm environment, have a tendency to “over-perceive what the frequency is” of drinking on campus, McMillan said.

According to social norm theory, particularly bad incidents stand out in one’s memory over the majority of scenarios, said Samuel Rubinstein ’17, member of the UCS Academic and Administrative Affairs committee.

Social norms and alcohol culture create a larger problem than the current legal drinking age, McMillan said in response.

The external review to assess campus alcohol use and policies that the University commissioned last May commended Brown’s multi-faceted alcohol policy approach, especially its medical amnesty and support for students recovering from alcohol-related issues, McMillan said. The review recommended improving Health Services and Counseling and Psychological Services screenings to identify earlier signs of alcoholism in students, she added.

McMillan identified four independent factors for riskiest drinking patterns: identifying as male, living off campus, affiliating with a Greek organization and playing on a varsity athletics team — but “statistics are not destiny,” she added.

The council approved a code amendment initiated by UCS Admissions and Student Services Committee Chair Ryan Lessing ’17 to allow UCS executive board members to apply to campus-wide committees and to allow the council to appoint a student to multiple committees by two-thirds majority.

After Parliamentarian Pro-Tempore Aryan Chhabria ’18 raised concerns over potential conflicts of interest, Lessing said the general body’s right to “final approval is not changing in any way” under the new amendment.

As part of the council’s efforts to increase access to administrators, UCS President Maahika Srinivasan ’15 said she helped President Christina Paxson P’19 set up a Facebook account to hold virtual office hours starting Feb. 27.

The UCS Outreach and Advocacy committee will meet Tuesday with the Mental Health Community Council to discuss changes in the medical leave taking process, said Sazzy Gourley ’16, UCS vice president and chair of OAC.

UCS Student Activities Committee Chair E-Soo Kim ’15 announced the confirmed speakers for A Day on College Hill’s new mental health panel, to be moderated by Darian Surratt ’15. The panel will include Maggie Jordan ’16, Brown University Health Promotion nutritionist Tracy Bergeron, Men’s Health Coordinator Marc Peters and University Chaplain and Director of the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson, Kim said.

The UCS Academic and Administrative Affairs committee plans to collect proposals for an undergraduate advising feedback form, said Elena Saltzman ’16, chair of the committee.


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