Underage Drinking: Success Stories

         

Underage

Drinking: Success Stories

 

 

McMinnville,

Oregon 

–  April 24, 2001

 

Scope

of Problem

Prevention

Strategies

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More

Success

Stories

Selected

Resources

 

With

support from the OJJDP Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Initiative,

community organizations, enforcement agencies, youth, and other concerned

citizens are working collaboratively to change local ordinances and

enforcement practices.

 

 

In

Wake of Incident

Town

and Gown Tackle Underage Drinking

Last spring, an underage drinking party on the campus

of

Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, got more than

just a little out of control. When local police were called by campus security to control a group of

approximately 300 people, some partygoers reacted aggressively and

attacked three police officers. Eventually, it took 15 officers from three agencies to settle the disturbance. The brawl garnered media coverage state wide, and the local

newspaper, The News Register,

named the incident one of the top ten news stories of the year. Fortunately, the story does not end there.

In the aftermath of the skirmish, some local prevention advocates acted to

ensure that misperceptions about the college and its students would not

take root. They knew that most Linfield students did not engage in

high-risk drinking; indeed, many students had contributed positively to

the broader community.So they pulled together a coalition of community and college representatives to

make sure that alcohol-related problems like the spring incident would not

reoccur. The community was represented by members from two local prevention groups (McMinnville

Together and the Yamhill County Prevention Council), the police

department, and local high schools. College-affiliated

coalition members came from the housing department, campus security, the

faculty and the administration, fraternities and sororities, and the general student

population. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission also participated.

With support from the Governor?s Task Force to

Reduce Underage and High-Risk Drinking, the coalition implemented a

multipronged approach for addressing alcohol use by Linfield students. Their plan seeks to (1) increase communication between the college

and the community; (2) implement a social norms-based media campaign at

Linfield; and (3) provide students with alcohol-free alternatives. The McMinnville Police Department also received separate funding to

increase enforcement around the college.

Since the fall of 2000, communication among all

interested parties has improved tremendously, resulting in several

meetings focused on laws, community behavior, and safety issues.

Because Linfield College had been collecting data on student drinking behavior for at least two years before

the spring of 2000, it was possible to develop the media campaign

relatively quickly. The campaign notes, among other statistics, that 80 percent of Linfield

students drink alcohol once a week or less. Alcohol-free alternatives have included dances,

midnight basketball, ?mocktail? parties, and

late-night movies, all designed to cover the 11:00 p.m. to

2:00 a.m. stretch of time when underage drinking is more likely to occur. Finally, the prevention grant has focused attention on college

alcohol policies, specifically on instituting parental notification of

student alcohol violations.

With the second grant dedicated to enforcement,

the McMinnville Police Department has increased enforcement activity

significantly. Before last May?s incident enforcement of underage drinking laws was

virtually unknown. Now, police officers conduct on-campus enforcement regularly through pedestrian and

party patrols. Officers cite youth who possess alcohol and stop for questioning any youth who appears

intoxicated or even just smells of alcohol.

Students reacted with outrage last fall when 34 students were cited during

homecoming weekend (the department?s first on-campus enforcement

patrol). When college administrators and police departments continued enforcement efforts,

student criticism abated and now enforcement of alcohol laws are accepted

as a fact of life.

Members of the coalition understand that change will not occur overnight nonetheless, but

they believe their multi-pronged approach will eventually yield desired

results: reductions in underage and high-risk drinking behavior.

Increased communication has resulted in greater support for enforcement and greater

awareness among college administrators of the behavior of Linfield

students off-campus. Greater

enforcement has resulted in increased citations issued to youths who

possess and adults who provide alcohol. The social norms/media campaign is generating a great deal of

discussion about the acceptability of drinking behavior on campus, and

creatively conceived and well-implemented alcohol-free activities are

proving increasingly popular with students.

An annually conducted CORE survey is expected to capture changes in Linfield

students? alcohol-related behavior, perceptions, and attitudes over

time. Stay tuned?

For more information contact: Susan

Chambers, Coordinator, Grant to Reduce Underage and High-Risk Drinking,

Linfield

College, McMinnville

OR, (503) 434-2372.

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Underage Drinking: Success Stories
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