How the U. of Rhode Island Sobered Up
Banning alcohol from campus events as well as education, interventions and enforcement helped URI clean up its act.
URI President Emeritus Dr. Robert Carothers spoke at Security On Campus' "The Future of Campus Safety."
With the implementation of these steps, the culture slowly began to change at URI, but not quickly enough in the fraternities and sororities. Young fraternity alumni were particularly opposed to the changes. To address this challenge, eight of the fraternities had to be shut down, and four of those eight were bulldozed.
In 1999, URI also began parental notification, despite concerns that there could be privacy violations.
Policy Changes Resisted at First
Initially these changes were not supported by everyone on campus. Even the police department resisted.
“We discovered that they were all making a lot of money in overtime in guarding these parties at fraternities and elsewhere,” he says. “They didn’t want to give up that money.”
The admissions department, which marketed URI as a fun place to attend, believed the change in policy would discourage people from coming to the school. The development department resisted the change too, believing alcohol had to be served at alumni events in order for attendees to have a good time and make donations to the institution.
Even some of URI’s neighbors were opposed to the changes, arguing that the new policies would just push the problem into the neighborhoods. According to Carothers, however, the rate of alcohol and drug abuse did not go up or down off campus after the new policies were implemented.
Carothers, as well as other speakers at the Security On Campus conference, discussed additional ways that colleges and universities can address high-risk drinking and alcohol abuse, such as population-level interventions and social norming. Working with the surrounding community to limit the number of events that drive down the price of alcohol (like happy hour and ladies night) is also an effective strategy. Most of the presenters at the event agreed, however, that scare tactics are not effective ways of managing alcohol and substance use in the campus community.
Education Efforts Must be Ongoing
Although the situation at URI has greatly improved since the early nineties, Carothers warns that alcohol and drug abuse education, prevention, intervention and enforcement efforts must be done every year. “If you think you have it solved, you have a problem.”