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.

Need Help Channeling Student Activism? – Ten Strategies for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The arrival of April also brings the arrival of Sexual Assault Awareness Month – a time in which many colleges and universities ramp up their prevention efforts with a vast array of programs geared towards this important issue. Students are often on the front lines of organizing events, generating dialogue, and demonstrating a personal commitment to raising awareness. While student involvement can be an incredible driving force around this issue, it’s important that campus administrators work collaboratively to guide and support their efforts. Here are ten tips to help you make the most of this collaboration.

1. Connect with Student Leaders

Reach out to activists, opinion leaders, and other influential students on campus. Determine who is engaged with different activities and events, and what their efforts entail. As necessary, introduce student leaders to one another to help them maximize their outcomes. Also consider sharing your aspirations regarding ending violence on your campus, engaging students as allies in your continued efforts throughout the year.

2. Support Student Leaders and Event Organizers

Play a hand in organizing events. Provide ways for students to partner with your office, share resources, and promote services. Consider hosting, sponsoring, or contributing to events—students will appreciate it. In turn, demonstrate your appreciation of student efforts. Positive recognition goes a long way!

3. Educate Student Leaders and Support Event Learning Outcomes

Train students on strategies for hosting a successful event, and best practices for prevention. Support students in considering educational outcomes and key messages for events that go beyond simply raising awareness. Enlist students to create materials to support intended outcomes.

4. Contribute (and Gather) Information

Offer talking points and statistics for students to utilize. Think about the messages that you want all students to be receiving, and share them with those students who will be helping with programs. Ensure that students know of available resources, are equipped with strategies for supporting survivors or overcoming resistance, and have a general understanding of university-wide efforts currently in place (or in the works). Create a feedback loop to incorporate new ideas and improve future efforts – this can be a fantastic learning process for students and professionals alike.

5. Focus on the Positives and Correct Misperceptions

Encourage framing messages around positive norms, emphasizing the promotion of healthy behaviors rather than focusing solely on preventing unhealthy ones. Misperceptions of social norms often exist among students, with a tendency to overestimate negative attitudes and behaviors of peers while underestimating the positive. Show students that they are part of a healthy majority on campus, and empower them to create the safe campus community they want to live and learn in.

6. Build Bridges and Connect the Dots

Demonstrate how events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month fit into the bigger picture of campus prevention. Find ways to connect these events with other prevention work happening on campus. You’ll likely have a captive audience – use it to generate momentum towards ongoing events throughout the year. This is also a great time to encourage other stakeholders to get involved.  Collaboration is key!

7. Be Present

Attend events being hosted by student groups. Bring materials and maintain visibility for your office at these events. Simply being there is an important demonstration of your accessibility, commitment, and support.

8. Be Mindful of Media

This is often a time during which media attention to the topic of sexual assault is heightened. Schools may be eager to showcase their efforts through student, local, or even national news, and this can be a great way of increasing awareness on a larger scale. That said, it is important to be respectful of survivors and their wishes. Events like “Take Back The Night” can be a profound experience for those who participate, and as such it is crucial that participants are informed if media will be present. If a media outlet has expressed an interest, connect with them beforehand to establish expectations and boundaries, inform students if there are events where media will be present, and consider writing an official statement that you can share to accurately convey your efforts.

9. Provide Follow-Up and Ongoing Support

Be aware that this can be a challenging and emotionally charged issue for students to take on, particularly if they have a personal connection to sexual assault. Provide opportunities for students to discuss their thoughts about the events, especially if efforts failed to meet their expectations. Validate any feelings that may arise from their involvement in programming, and remind them of available resources on campus should they need them.

10. Show Gratitude

Students quite often have a great deal on their plates. As such, when they volunteer their time and energy to raise awareness about this issue, they are likely doing so because of a true connection to it. Remind them that their involvement is valued and meaningful.  A hand-written thank you note, a follow-up email, or an end-of-month celebration for volunteers are all small gestures than can be incredibly meaningful.

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.

How Effective Are Your Campus Sexual Assault Prevention Efforts?

The voices of survivors and student activists are demanding accountability from college campuses to combat sexual violence. Unprecedented action has been taken by the federal government to ramp up regulations and crack down on schools falling short of their responsibilities to protect and support students. As the result of a predominant focus on compliance with response-related mandates, there continues to be a lack of widespread articulation, understanding, and application of “best practice” for prevention.

When asked to describe their prevention efforts, campus administrators tend to default to listing out the programs they offer to students. This list varies from campus to campus in terms of the number of programs, the timing and target audience, and the underlying evidence-base for each. Regardless of the programmatic variance across institutions, however, an exclusive focus on programs is a myopic approach to prevention. Programming, while critically important, relies on a foundation of institutional commitment to wellness and prevention and engagement in critical processes necessary for doing effective prevention work.

Drawing from key theoretical frameworks and expert analysis gleaned from published literature, EverFi developed a comprehensive and broadly applicable model for approaching prevention as a process, not a program. This model consists of three tiers: programming, critical processes, and institutionalization. Across these tiers are 22 categories of recommendations, resulting from a qualitative coding of over 300 key findings elucidated from dozens of publications on sexual assault prevention.

A Best Practice Framework for Sexual Assault Prevention

sexual assault prevention model

This framework, while useful as a conceptual model, was truly brought to life in April 2015. In collaboration with leading researchers and nationwide prevention professionals, the recommendations were translated into EverFi’s Sexual Assault Diagnostic Inventory, a comprehensive assessment tool measuring campus prevention efforts across the three pillars of programming, critical processes, and institutionalization.

The Sexual Assault Diagnostic Inventory includes over 80 questions aimed at holistically examining a campus’s prevention approach. The tool begins with a number of demographic questions used for benchmarking and analysis. These include questions about the size of the institution, geographic location, religious affiliation, athletic division, public/private status, and number of graduates and undergraduates. The next set of questions examines prevention programming, focusing on the specific populations reached, frequency of programs, approaches utilized, diversity of educators, etc. The tool then looks at a set of processes deemed critical for effective prevention work, including training of educators, tracking of participation, reliance on theory and evidence, degree of evaluation, and strategic planning efforts. The last set of questions look at the degree of institutionalization around prevention, with questions assessing the number of full-time prevention employees, prevention budget, number of times a school’s senior leaders (President, Chancellor, VPSA, etc.) have publicly communicated about the issue, and the presence, frequency, and degree of progress of a prevention task force.

With over a year of pilot data, EverFi recently published a report detailing some groundbreaking findings about the state of prevention in higher education, including:

  • Sexual assault’s impact on retention, academic success, and more
  • Reporting of sexual assault, and student perceptions of institutional response
  • The type of programs schools are utilizing the most and least, and the degree to which these programs are research- or evidence-based
  • Engagement in strategic planning and goal-setting initiatives (or, lack thereof)
  • National trends around prevention funding and staffing, broken down by school type and size

These findings will help campuses identify areas for growth and improvement, but will also highlight the great work they are already doing to support and protect students. With comprehensive insights on their needs and strengths, campuses can truly make transformative impact in addressing sexual violence and creating safer, healthier communities.

To learn more about the Sexual Assault Diagnostic Inventory, and sexual assault prevention best practices, download our new guidebook entitled, “Improving Campus Sexual Assault Prevention: A Best Practice Guide for Administrative Leadership“.

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

Prioritizing Primary Prevention and Awareness Programs for All Incoming Students and Employees

How to Exceed Clery Act and Title IX Compliance Mandates

As of July 1st, federal legislation has gone into effect requiring all colleges and universities to offer “primary prevention and awareness programs” to all incoming students and employees, as well as “ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns” – all dedicated to help address campus sexual assault.

These guidelines are part of the Clery Act, put in place by the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Many refer to these Clery Act amendments as the Campus SaVE Act, and they will be enforced by the Department of Education in addition to all requirements of Title IX.

As institutional leadership consider these mandates, and what they mean for their students, faculty, staff, and institution, we’ve compiled a free guidebook to help institutions meet and exceed compliance. In addition, we will be hosting a webinar on this topic on Wednesday, August 5th, from 2 to 3 PM (EST).

Blog_Clery-Act-Guidebook(1)

The oft-cited statistics that 20-25% of college women (and 3-6% of college men) will experience sexual assault during their time on campus, albeit horrific, are only numbers. These numbers represent thousands of women and men whose lives are drastically affected by preventable violence and abuse. Depression, PTSD, anxiety, eating disorders, suicide, substance abuse, harmed social/intimate relationships, poor academic performance, higher rates of dropping out, and heightened risk for future victimization are among the potential fallout.

Beyond the physical, mental, and emotional toll sexual assault has on survivors, the impact of violence on higher education institutions is significant in multiple mission-critical domains: student attrition, reputational repercussions, enrollment, litigation costs, federal investigations tied to fines and funding cuts, more staff time, and increased demand for services. In fact, a report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault estimated a total economic cost of $87,000 to $241,000 per rape, while a recent study by United Educators cited $17M in losses to colleges and universities for sexual assault claims resulting in litigation (an average of $200,000 for defending/resolving each claim). To put this into perspective, a recent EverFi analysis found that the average campus sexual assault prevention budget is under $30,000.

As federal and state lawmakers continue to confront these issues, and mandates from Title IX, the Clery Act, and other pending legislation continue to evolve, institutions will require a more thorough and holistic approach to their sexual assault prevention efforts.

As part of our guidebook, we’ve compiled a list of key requirements from both the Clery Act and Title IX so that you can review your current efforts and ensure your institution is taking a best practice approach to create safer, healthier campus communities. Download our Clery Act and Title IX guidebook today, and learn how to meet and exceed the new compliance mandates.