Losing Hope for Prevention in the Greek Community? Not So Fast.

A recent research study that examined alcohol interventions targeting fraternity and sorority members has led to several news stories, many of which have over-sensationalized headlines, none of which outline the limitations of the study. While the study has several limitations you can read about here, it does highlight that many prevention efforts directed towards fraternity and sorority members do not reflect the evidence base or sound prevention theory. As suggested in the study, most programming directed at fraternity and sorority members has consisted of one-off trainings that are not part of a larger comprehensive prevention plan. When this type of programming fails, it only reinforces the negative perceptions of the Greek system that nothing can be done about these challenges.

To help prevention specialists who work with Greek organizations leverage the research literature and prevention best practice, EverFi created a guidebook titled “Leveraging Values and Challenging Misconceptions – Prevention Guidelines for Fraternities and Sororities.” This resource demonstrates there is an opportunity to leverage the positive attitudes and the values of these organizations to promote healthy behavior.

Despite the negative media attention fraternity and sorority organizations often receive, becoming a member of a Greek organization is a rewarding and enriching experience for millions of American college students. The benefits of joining a Greek organization are well documented: Greek members are more likely to enjoy their overall college experience, more likely to persist from their first to second year in college, and more likely to graduate than their non-Greek peers. These students also gain leadership experience, build professional networks, and give back to their community.

However, there is also substantial research indicating that members of Greek organizations are more likely to misuse alcohol, use illicit substances, and either perpetrate or become victims of relationship violence and sexual assault. While high-risk alcohol use, sexual violence, and hazing create visible incidents that draw negative attention and publicity to the Greek community, EverFi’s research indicates that these unhealthy behaviors represent a relatively small percentage of fraternity and sorority students.

Rather than consider prevention efforts with the Greek community to be a lost cause as media headlines suggest, institutions and organizations should rethink prevention within the Greek community. By educating students to speak out and empowering them to intervene against problematic behavior, prevention specialists are leveraging the healthy norms and values that most fraternity and sorority members endorse. In addition to giving the students a voice, administrators should apply prevention practices informed by data gathered from individual chapters and institutions, as well as sound behavioral theory and prevention science. EverFi’s guidebook provides practitioners a foundation to build upon and support the development of effective prevention efforts targeting fraternity and sorority members.

EverFi at NASPA National 2016

Five Sessions on Preventing Campus Sexual Assault, Addressing Alcohol Abuse, and Promoting Wellness in Diverse Student Populations

We are proud to share that members of the EverFi Partner Education team will be presenting five sessions at the upcoming NASPA National Conference taking place in Indianapolis. From climate surveys to policy-driven windows of opportunity—and a whole host of unique student populations along the way—this year’s NASPA Conference highlights EverFi’s commitment to thought leadership and comprehensive prevention research.

If you will be attending NASPA, please check out the session information below. We hope you’ll consider attending one of our presentations! The EverFi team will also be available at booth #606 in the Exhibit Hall – we encourage you to stop by and connect with us, and check out some of the great materials we’ll have at our booth to support your work.

If you won’t be at NASPA this year, we’ll miss you. But please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re interested in finding out more about the cutting-edge prevention research we’re doing and how we can support you further in the important work you do to keep your campuses thriving.

***EVERFI SESSIONS AT THE NASPA NATIONAL 2016 CONFERENCE*** 

Addressing Mission-Critical Institutional Priorities Using Campus Climate Surveys

Day/Time: Monday, March 14 (8:30 AM – 9:20 AM)

Location:  Meeting Room 136 – Convention Center

Presenters: Rob Buelow (EverFi), Kelley Adams (MIT)

Session Description: Sexual assault is widely prevalent yet vastly underreported, leaving campuses with incomplete information about the scope and nature of occurrence. As a result, administrators face significant challenges in providing adequate and effective services to prevent and respond to sexual assault. These deficiencies create ripples that impact all facets of our institutions from student wellness to retention. Presenters will provide important context about the merits of climate surveys and their value for achieving mission-critical priorities.

The Need for Collecting College-Specific Health Data of LGBTQ Students

Day/Time: Monday, March 14 (1:15 PM – 2:05 PM)

Location:  Meeting Room 136 – Convention Center

Presenters: Kimberley Timpf (EverFi), Sherri Darrow (University at Buffalo)

Session Description: A lack of data on the health of LGBTQ students means that colleges and universities are left to guess about protective and risk factors and health interventions for this population. The presenters will explore the implications of this challenge and discuss insights gathered as a result of adding sexual orientation and gender identity questions to national and campus-level surveys. Participants will be provided with resources to assist with the process of collecting similar data on their campus.

Shining a Light on Overlooked Student Populations for Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention

Day/Time: Monday, March 14 (2:30 PM – 3:20 PM)

Location:  Meeting Room 138 – Convention Center

Presenters: Rob Buelow (EverFi), Holly Rider-Milkovich (University of Michigan)

Session Description: Presenters will explore primary and secondary research on the knowledge, attitudes, perceptions, experiences, and behaviors of often overlooked student populations, including graduate students, community and technical college students, and adult learners. The presenters will share experiential and data-driven insights on working with these students and describe the collaborative process of developing a unique approach to effectively provide prevention education to non-traditional student groups around sexual and relationship violence.

Addressing High-Risk Behaviors in Fraternities and Sororities: Evidence-based and Data-driven Prevention

Day/Time: Tuesday, March 15 (2:30 PM – 3:20 PM)

Location:  Meeting Room 138 – Convention Center

Presenters: Erin McClintock (EverFi), Nicole Cavallaro (EverFi)

Session Description: The presenter will review challenges facing campus and headquarters staff in addressing high-risk behaviors among fraternity and sorority members, providing a framework for developing effective prevention efforts. It will review data from in-course GreekLifeEdu surveys, reflecting attitudes, behaviors, and experiences of approximately 65,000 – 70,000 new members in 2015. This session aims to empower staff with effective approaches, to engage students in solutions, and to raise the profile of healthy and responsible Greek-affiliated students.

Leveraging the Current Regulatory Landscape to Support Broader Campus Prevention Initiatives

Day/Time: Tuesday, March 15 (2:30 PM – 3:20 PM)

Location:  Meeting Room 136 – Convention Center

Presenters: Kimberley Timpf (EverFi), Rob Buelow (EverFi)

Session Description: Heightened attention to campus sexual violence has student affairs leaders asking, “How can finite resources be allocated to appropriately address a growing set of mandates and responsibilities around this critical issue without losing focus on broader wellness and safety challenges?” The presenters will discuss cross-cutting public health frameworks and mission-critical priorities that can be leveraged to inspire collaborative efforts and insure we stay focused on doing the best work possible to address these interconnected issues.

Taking Time to Celebrate and Care for You

With the “holiday season” now behind us, we’ve had an opportunity to reflect on the past year, give thanks, and appreciate the people in our midst and our many blessings. Yet for most of us, the past few weeks were probably accompanied by an extra-long “to do” list, a flurry of additional activities and gatherings, and a level of stress that is decidedly out of sync with “the most wonderful time of the year.”

For many, there was time spent relaxing and with family and loved ones, celebrating and reinvigorating our personal connections. There was also the potential opportunity to breathe, celebrate ourselves and our accomplishments, and recharge.   Given all our efforts to promote messages of student health, safety, and wellbeing, we often fall short of taking our own advice on preserving a sound body, mind, and spirit. This is particularly important for people providing services to troubled students or those who have experienced trauma who are prone to “compassion fatigue” or “secondary traumatic stress.”

Self-care has come into the common vernacular, and with that, a host of resources, technology-enabled tools, products, and apps have emerged to help support our care for mind, body, and spirit. In support of this movement, research continues to demonstrate the deleterious effects of our modern lifestyle, and the beneficial effect of measures—even seemingly small ones—to maintain a sense of wellbeing and a healthier lifestyle.

A great place to start for resources is the Self-care Starter Kit from the University at Buffalo School of Social Work. Typical self-care activities include:

As you start the new year, consider these self-care practices “gifts to yourself.” And if these gifts feel good and you see their beneficial effects, consider making a habit of them by incorporating them into your daily routine as your new year’s resolution—an ongoing gift to yourself to last throughout 2016.  Best wishes for a happy, healthy new year.

Self-Perceptions of Adulthood, Heavy Drinking, and Opposition to the Age 21 Drinking Law

When can a young person be said to have reached adulthood? The quick answer is age 18. That’s the “age of majority” in most countries, when a person is legally an adult and can assume control of and legal responsibility for their personal affairs. That’s true in most US states, but not all it turns out. In Alabama, Delaware, and Nebraska, the designated age is 19, and in Mississippi it’s 21. That said, the minimum legal drinking age in the United States is 21, regardless of variation in the age of adulthood across states.

Of course, becoming a fully functioning adult involves far more than reaching a milestone birthday—rather, it’s a process that unfolds over many years. For Americans, achieving full adulthood involves several key developmental steps: completing one’s education, making independent decisions, living on one’s own and managing a household, securing and maintaining employment, and being financially independent. There are also socio-emotional aspects to becoming a fully functioning adult: establishing a relationship with parents as an equal adult, developing attachments outside one’s immediate family, making lifetime commitments to others, managing one’s emotional life, accepting responsibility for one’s own actions, and so on.

In short, “adulthood” is a complex, multifaceted concept, with an overlay of seemingly contradictory federal and state laws. For that reason it’s not surprising that entering first-year college students, many of whom are living away from home for the first time, have different thoughts about whether they have reached adulthood.

With the increase in drinking seen upon students’ arrival to campus, my colleagues and I were interested to learn whether these differing self-perceptions would be related to how much alcohol entering first-year students drink. As shown in the Insight Report, “Seeing Oneself as an Adult: The Impact on Drinking in the Freshman Year,” the lower a student’s self-rating for perceived adulthood, the greater the number of heavy drinking episodes that student reported having during the past two weeks. This finding has several implications for prevention practice, which the report outlines.

There’s another reason this finding intrigues me. One of the main arguments made in favor of lowering the minimum legal drinking age to 18 is that people this age are adults and should be treated as such. As described in the Insight Report, we know that not seeing oneself as fully adult predicts being a heavier drinker. This raises an interesting question: Is being a heavier drinker predictive of opposition to the age 21 minimum legal drinking age?

When AlcoholEdu for CollegeTM was administered in 2008, we asked a sample of 6,548 entering college students whether they supported or opposed the age 21 minimum legal drinking age. While 25.1% supported the current law and 30.3% had a neutral opinion, 44.6% expressed their opposition.

Now consider how the students’ opinions varied according to their drinking status during the two-week period before the AlcoholEdu survey. Predictably, those who consumed alcohol during the previous two weeks were more likely to oppose the age 21 minimum. Problem drinkers—male students who reported having had 10 or more drinks on at least one occasion during the previous two weeks, and female students who reported having 8 or more drinks—were especially opposed.

drinking-status-by-studentIn summary, the entering first-year students who do not perceive themselves as fully adult drink more heavily than those who do. In turn, the students who drink most heavily are more likely to oppose the age 21 law. In effect, it’s as if many of these 18-year-old students are saying, “No, I haven’t fully reached adulthood and so I drink a lot, but you need to let me drink legally because I’m adult.” As a proponent of the age 21 law, I appreciate the irony.

These findings raise an important issue for campus administrators and campus-based prevention experts: How do we get all college students to understand that, upon entering college, they have crossed a threshold into adulthood, with all of the opportunities and responsibilities that entails? As they approach graduation and their launch into the “real world,” most juniors and seniors figure this out. Stated differently, then, how do we get entering first-year students to think like upperclass students? If we can get these students to see themselves as adults, then maybe we’ll all reap the rewards of more new students acting like adults.

Campus Alcohol Policies and Their Impact on Student Drinking

Most campus administrators have come to recognize that alcohol policies play a role in changing students’ behaviors towards alcohol. As students arrive on campus there is typically an increase in students’ alcohol use, what we call the “college effect” (see Figure 1). Students who have not been heavy drinkers may begin to consume greater amounts of alcohol. Those who have only occasionally had a drink may begin to drink more frequently, and those who have abstained may begin to experiment with alcohol for the first time. Policy enforcement during this time period is critical to set the tone on campus; however, students should be held accountable with consistent enforcement throughout the remainder of the year as well.

Figure 1. The College Effect – Student Arrival on Campus Corresponds with an Increase in Alcohol Use

the college effect everfi

There is a body of research with supporting evidence that policies can make a difference when designed and delivered appropriately. This policy research is presented succinctly within the newly released NIAAA CollegeAIM matrix, which also includes a top efficacy rating for AlcoholEdu, EverFi’s online alcohol education program for incoming first-year students. Environmental strategies are a broad set of policies and programs to reduce alcohol problems among college students. There are three broad levels of policy implementation: state, community, and institutional.

Examples of state level laws include minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) law, high volume sales and consumption, such as happy-hour sales, keg registration, or pitcher sales. Examples of community-level policies include increased surveillance and enforcement by city police, server guidelines, and noise ordinances. Institutional policies include restricting alcohol to specific locations, registration of social events with alcohol, banning kegs, alcohol education programs, sanctions for student violators, and parental notification for underage students.

An education and publicity component must be considered part of the policy effort. Even if policies are in place, those who are targeted must be aware of the policies in order to comply. When new policies are created, it is important to involve students early in the decision making process. Once policies are created, they must be enforced consistently to be meaningful deterrents.

Research shows that student support for stronger policies and enforcement is greater than most students perceive it to be (see Figure 2). In a study published in the Journal of American College Health, including 32 four-year institutions, ninety percent of students supported stricter disciplinary sanctions for students who engage in alcohol-related violence. The students’ perception was that only 65 percent of their peers would support stricter disciplinary sanctions. Seventy-three percent of students supported stricter disciplinary sanctions for students who repeatedly violate campus alcohol policy, but students thought only 41 percent of their peers were supportive. This information is important to share with student to correct misperceived norms and also with stakeholders on campus. Staff, faculty, and senior leaders may be surprised by such strong student support for stronger alcohol policies and enforcement.

Figure 2. Student Support for Alcohol Policies

student support for alcohol policies everfiSource: DeJong, W., Towvim, G., & Schneider, S. (2007). Support for alcohol-control policies and enforcement strategies among US college students at 4-year institutions. Journal of American College Health, 56(3). 231-236.

Next month we will be conducting a webinar on how alcohol policies and programming relate to the practice of pre-gaming. You can register for our upcoming webinar here: Strategic Drinking: Exploring the Culture of Pre-gaming and Implications for Practice. We will be providing examples of how campuses and national fraternities and sororities have begun to address this ongoing challenge.

Partnership in Prevention – New Online Programs from EverFi and the University of Michigan

A (Brief) Primer on Effective Planning for Student Wellness

We talk a lot about the virtues of good planning here at EverFi. Indeed, it is a hallmark of doing effective work—of any kind. This month, you’re likely writing up your end-of-year reports and starting to consider the year ahead. It seems timely for a reminder of the importance of planning and the availability of tools and resources to support this important aspect of your efforts. The first part of any good planning process will be a situational assessment. What are the needs and strengths of your students, and how can they be better supported? These answers may come from your most recent NCHA II or Core survey data, or perhaps AlcoholEdu and/or Haven. You might also look to service utilization reports in order to determine where and how students are accessing your services, and how and whether you are meeting their needs. This phase of planning should also consider what resources and assets are available in order to establish goals that are realistic.

This formative analysis should also consider the broader campus environment and your surrounding community. What are the threats or challenges posed to students making safe and healthy choices? How might you influence the environment so that healthy and safe choices are easier? The research base must inform this part of the thought process. If there is no research base, then the thought process should be informed, at the very least, by behavioral change theory. Environmental changes may include reducing low-priced drink specials in your community, providing more alcohol-free opportunities on campus, expanding access to recreational facilities, or promoting healthy norms regarding sexual activity, consent, or bystander intervention.

Goal setting is best supported using a logic model, where you can map out the impact of your proposed activities into short-term outputs, medium-term outcomes, and eventually long-term impact. A logic model will force you to check assumptions and can help identify gaps in your thinking or efforts that might lead to failure. It also helps identify evaluation measures, which, once collected, will enable you to determine where you were successful, and where along the process things may have fallen short. As you set about articulating objectives in order to reach your goals, a useful tool to follow is the SMART method, which supports creating reasonable, concrete goals and objectives that are amenable to evaluation and improvement. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely or Time-bound. There are several web-based SMART goal-planning tools and guides you might call upon; here and here are just two examples.

Once you have identified what must be done to reach your mission or overarching goal, you can begin to lay out an action plan of what will be done, when, and by whom. It will also help clarify the partners you will likely need to engage, and resources you will need to call upon in order to effect the change you are seeking. While this is an oversimplification of the planning process, thinking through these steps will greatly enhance the success of your campus health and safety efforts. One fantastic compendium of resources to call upon for planning and building healthy communities is the Community Tool Box. This resource contains a host of toolkits, information, and guidance to drive social change in support of healthy communities. The Healthy Campus 2020 MAP-IT model may also prove useful as you engage in this process. Congrats on wrapping up another academic year, and best of luck as you engage this process in planning for the year to come!

Why AlcoholEdu for College™ is the Largest Online Course in Higher Education

Much to the dismay of students, parents, educators, administrators and college presidents, the culture of drinking on campus at many colleges and universities still prevails.  While headlines are dominated by stories of negative consequences associated with drinking, schools are struggling to implement scalable alcohol and and other drug prevention education across their campuses.  That’s where EverFi comes in.

This fall, over half a million college students will take EverFi’s flagship higher education course, AlcoholEdu for College™.  That number represents nearly 1/3 of all first-year students at America’s four-year higher education institutions and it continues to grow every year.  There’s a reason AlcoholEdu has grown into the largest online course in higher education, (with over 4 million student completions to date), and it’s because of one thing: assumptions — we don’t make them.  We don’t assume that every college student drinks and we don’t assume that every student has the same attitudes and behaviors towards drinking.

In fact, we know that at least 1/3 of the student population at most campuses don’t consume alcohol. So, we ensure that ALL students have a chance to benefit from our course and absorb information tailored specifically to their own experience.  We do this by providing multiple pathways for students to move through our course.  Whether they are abstainers, moderate drinkers, or heavy drinkers, each student receives relevant content, personalized feedback and practical strategies that are appropriate for their needs.  And, regardless of their path, every student receives a base level education on alcohol, since even an abstainer may try alcohol at some point.  There are a number of courses in the market today that start with the assumption that every student drinks alcohol and is sexually active, AlcoholEdu is not one of those courses.

This summer we’re unveiling the latest release of the course, complete with a newly designed user experience, interactive activities, engaging modules and informative data to help define ongoing campus programming.  Check out an overview video to see why over 550 campuses are using AlcoholEdu for College.

AlcoholEdu for College Overview Video from EverFi on Vimeo.

A Personalized Approach to Alcohol & Other Drug Education

Are your children prepared for college?

Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Social Pressure. Not everyone drinks, uses drugs, or succumbs to social pressures when they are in college. But some kids do.  Do you want your children to be prepared to deal with these issues? To have the knowledge to make the right decisions when they are faced with situations in which alcohol is all around them and they are being pressured to participate or their “new” best friend is in a precarious situation and they don’t know how to help them? I would.

AEDU1_newAs a parent, I am thankful that EverFi has developed a product that helps prepare the millions of students who are starting their college career to make smart choices and decisions around alcohol.  Even more importantly, as a member of EverFi’s product team, I have the responsibility of ensuring that our course continues to provide college students with the right information to be successful during this important phase of their academic career.

Population level alcohol education has been our focus at EverFi for thirteen years and we’re incredibly proud to be partnered with 550 colleges and universities across the country.  During that time, AlcoholEdu for College™  has grown into the largest online course in higher education with over 4 million student completions – including 550,000 this academic year alone.

Consistently evolving AlcoholEdu to leverage prevention best practices and to meet the needs of campuses is a core part of our focus and that’s why we’re truly excited about the upcoming launch of a significantly enhanced AlcoholEdu.  A key focus has been enhancing the student experience and the interactions within the course.  We’ve designed the course  to addresses a wide spectrum of students and to provide personalized pathways based on attitudes and behaviors that will resonate with today’s college students.

What’s critical about our focus is that we don’t assume that every college student drinks.  In fact, we know that a significant portion of the student population doesn’t consume alcohol. To ensure that ALL students have a chance to benefit from our course and absorb information tailored specifically to their own experience, we provide multiple pathways for students to move through our course.  Whether they are abstainers, moderate drinkers or heavy drinkers, each student receives relevant content, personalized feedback and practical strategies that are appropriate for their needs.

There are a number of courses in the market today that start with the assumption that every student drinks alcohol and is sexually active.  This type of “one size fits all” messaging is dangerous as it could drive abstainers to either adopt riskier behaviors or to make them feel alienated.  This alienation impacts their college experience and may lead to increased transfers and/or dropouts.   In short, if you are sending a child who doesn’t drink to college, do you want the college to provide education that sends a message that they will not fit in unless they drink?

AlcoholEdu doesn’t talk down to students, use scare tactics or flippant language to get their attention.  We provide a straightforward, fact-based, mature experience that is respectful of the situations that we know students face and the decisions they will need to make.

Having the opportunity to improve a course that millions of students have completed has been a tremendous experience.   As we get closer to launch, we’ll share more updates on the completely new AlcoholEdu for College.  In the interim, ask the Dean of Students of your college or your children’s college if they’re using AlcoholEdu.