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Response to Article on Alcohol Task Force

Published on behalf of Leonard Brown, Dean of Students

I’d like to take the opportunity to clarify information in an opinion piece written by Sam Wilson in the February 20, 2019 edition of the Point News. First, it is important to get the name of the subject of the piece right. It is the Alcohol Task Force, not the Alcohol and Drug Enforcement Task Force. The correct name bears noting because the charge of the task force is not to focus on enforcement, but rather to make data-informed recommendations on how our community can reduce the negative impact of alcohol and drug use on students.

At the core of their work is data from surveys administered by the Maryland Collaborative from 2016 and 2018. There has been a lot of discussion about the survey methodology, sample size and peer comparison group, which is great. You should always critically examine research and determine credibility. At the same time, we cannot ignore that this research asserts that the abuse of alcohol or drugs creates negative consequences to both users and those around them. It is reasonable for our community to be concerned about the adverse impacts of this behavior and to identify evidence-based promising practices to help us mitigate them.

According to the survey reports, negatives consequences of alcohol and drug use include missing class, blacking out, being taken advantage of sexually and getting hurt or injured. The surveys also identify negative consequences experienced by people around those who use alcohol or drugs such as having to take care of someone who drank too much, interruptions to sleep or study and unwanted sexual advances. I believe we as a community would want to see all of these behaviors decrease on our campus.

The goal is for the Alcohol Task Force, comprised of students, staff and faculty, to identify some strategies that we can implement. These strategies need to be proven, by experienced practitioners and experts, to mitigate the harmful behaviors associated with excess alcohol and drug use. While policy enforcement is one evidence-based measure, there are a host of other considerations. There are strategies and interventions on the individual level, the policy/practice level, the institutional level and the environmental level that, in concert, can help with harm reduction.

The Alcohol Task Force has the potential to be a great example for the St. Mary’s community, working together on a complex issue to improve the environment on campus for students who choose to drink or use drugs and for students who choose not to. I hope we can all agree that this is a goal worthy of our collective time and the effort.

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