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Limit the Use of Alcohol in Student Claims

Melanie Bennett, Esq., ARM-E
July 2021
Actions to combat alcohol abuse among students, and the importance of doing so as evidenced by UE claims

Excessive student drinking is a perpetual problem on college and university campuses. According to a national survey, almost 53% of college students ages 18-22 drank alcohol in the past month, and more than one out of three of college students ages 18-22 engaged in binge drinking during that same time frame. In addition, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that about 1,519 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes. Creating alcohol awareness for your students will increase campus safety by curbing preventable incidents.

United Educators’ (UE’s) claims studies also reveal that combating alcohol abuse can decrease the frequency and severity of losses. Alcohol is a contributing factor in many types of UE claims. For example:

  • Greek activities More than half of the deaths arising from Greek activities involved alcohol, usually at a Greek-sponsored party when an intoxicated student suffered a fatal fall or got behind the wheel. See Fraternities, Sororities, and Risk: Lessons from Claims (study of UE’s Greek claims from 2010 through 2014).
  • Student sexual assault One or both parties consumed alcohol in more than half of student-perpetrated sexual assault claims. Excessive drinking continues to play a major role in campus sexual assault, including on the parties’ ability to navigate consent. See Review of Student-Victim Sexual Assault Claims With Losses (review of UE’s student sexual assault claims from 2011 to 2015).
  • Hazing About 51% of student hazing claims involved binge drinking. See Hazing Prevention: Strategies for Healthy Rites of Passage (summary of UE’s hazing claims from 2003 to 2012).
  • Study abroad — One in three study abroad claims involved alcohol. Our study noted that alcohol increases the risk of accidents, injury, unwanted attention, and theft while traveling. See At Risk Abroad: Lessons From Claims (study of UE’s study abroad claims from 2005 to 2014).

Manage the Risk of Student Alcohol Use

Take the following actions to combat alcohol abuse:

Establish Clear Policies

Have clear policies on alcohol use by students and student organizations. For minors, clearly prohibit drinking. Set and enforce consequences for noncompliance. Also, educate students on your policy and the risks associated with alcohol misuse. Studies show enforcement of the legal drinking age can be a highly effective technique to combat excessive drinking.

Include Alcohol Awareness Conversations in Trainings

During trainings about study abroad, sexual assault prevention, athletics, and Greek life, speak about alcohol awareness. The NIAAA stresses the importance of providing targeted training to high-risk groups.

  • Inform students that during a pandemic, alcohol decreases necessary caution. Drinking alcohol impairs physical and mental inhibitions, making it less likely that students will take the precautions needed to reduce the risk of contracting an infectious disease or spreading it to others.
  • Remind all students traveling internationally that alcohol increases risk. Alcohol increases the risk of accidents, injury, unwanted attention, and theft in any location, but particularly abroad.
  • Educate students about the impact alcohol and other drugs has on sexual consent. All student education and training on consent should address the impact of alcohol and other drugs on individuals’ ability to give consent.
  • Develop individual-level education programs. Programs should address activity-specific risks for students who participate in campus athletics or Greek life, because they’re at a higher risk for alcohol abuse.

Implement Amnesty Policies

Amnesty policies let students seek medical help for themselves or others in an alcohol-related emergency without incurring judicial or academic consequences. Medical amnesty policies may increase peer intervention and encourage life-saving reporting in medical emergencies, though research in this area is limited.

Train New Students on Alcohol Awareness and Prevention

Teach students to be safe by developing responsible drinking skills. Consider training parents of incoming students to prevent alcohol abuse — studies suggest parental intervention before college may reduce high-risk drinking among students.

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