Updated November 22, 2021
The University at Buffalo recognizes that the use of alcohol and other drugs can significantly interfere with the mission of the university and pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of the members of our community. Our comprehensive approach to alcohol prevention and intervention focuses on early introduction of education and skill building; as well as correcting misperceptions that many students hold about college alcohol, tobacco and other drug use to reduce the harmful consequences of alcohol and other drug use. Our goal is to support students in achieving their personal and academic potential. UB follows and implements best practices per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction (NIAAA) and works closely with the UB Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions to refine and improve intervention options and protocols.
Most students grow up in a culture that equates the consumption of alcohol with having fun, relaxing, and reducing tension. Drinking alcohol has become a rite of passage for some young people, and many students come to college having learned to drink during their high school years.
The Everfi Alcohol Edu Survey surveys students before entering college about how much alcohol they have consumed in the last two weeks. According to its most recent survey of schools, the percentage of students who abstain has increased and the number of students who drink once they enter college is declining.
Harmful alcohol use can produce serious outcomes. In 2021, the NIAAA reported that 1,591 college students die each year from alcohol- related injuries; over 600,000 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking; 97,000 students experienced alcohol-related sexual assault and 25% of students had academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers and receiving lower grades overall.
Researchers at Penn State found that parents can have a profound impact on their son’s or daughter’s drinking behaviors in college if they speak with them the summer before they come to college. Parent interaction helped mitigate the college effect for students who had not started drinking and even had an impact on students who were already drinking-- including those drinking frequently in high school. When parents talk to students about drinking before they leave for college the students are 20 times more likely to transition to a healthier drinking pattern, including non-drinking.
In recognition of the seriousness of this issue, the University at Buffalo created the Alcohol Strategies Committee. This Division of Student Life task force is charged with taking a multi-faceted view of the issue and is developing evidence-based alcohol prevention, intervention and enforcement strategies.
Task force committee participants include representatives from across the university, including student government, Campus Living, Student Engagement, Counseling Services, Health Promotion, Parking and Transportation, Student Conduct and Advocacy and University Police. Committee outcomes include the addition of alcohol-free late night activities, the Good Samaritan Policy, changes in bus services, increased enforcement and presence where people are getting on and off buses to keep them safe.
The health and safety of UB students is always our highest priority. However, students may be reluctant to get immediate medical or other professional assistance or provide it to others because of concerns that their own behavior may be in violation of UB rules or regulations. To minimize any hesitation students or student organizations may have in obtaining help for themselves UB has developed the “Good Samaritan” approach to guarantee that a bystander reporting in good faith or a victim/survivor reporting sexual violence to university officials or law enforcement will not be subject to campus conduct action for violations of alcohol and/or drug use policies occurring at or near the time of the sexual violence.
UB requires that all incoming students complete AlcoholEdu, a supplemental online course that motivates behavior change and reduces high-risk drinking and alcohol-related harms among college students, and they must acknowledge receipt of and affirm UB’s “Student Code of Conduct, University Standards and Administrative Regulations” before they may register for classes.
At UB, about 11% of our students are drinking in a high-risk way the summer before they come to campus. Historically, drinking does rise the summer before entry and then again in the first six weeks of school. This is known as the “College Effect”. Our goal is to mitigate the college effect and we have seen positive trends at UB that show that non-drinking has increased and high-risk drinking has decreased.
UB takes the problem of excessive alcohol and other drug use very seriously and will continue to be proactive in its education, prevention and treatment efforts.
Prevention and harm reduction are the key components of reducing the risk and impact of alcohol and other drugs abuse. University programming is designed to provide students with tools to deal with alcohol in a mature manner and correct misperceptions that many students hold about college alcohol, tobacco and other drug use.