University of Vermont

University Communications

UVM Receives National Award for Work to Reduce High Risk Drinking

Has Seen Significant Reduction in Past Five Years

Photo of foliage on UVM's Main Green

The University of Vermont was one of three institutions of higher education whose work to address high risk drinking and other substance misuse was honored with a Prevention Excellence Award at the ninth annual Campus Prevention Network Summit in Boston on June 12. The award was presented by EVERFI, Inc., a leading technology innovator.  

The Campus Prevention Network is a nationwide initiative of over 1,700 institutions dedicated to creating safer, healthier campus communities.

“While there is more work to do, the clear progress we’ve made in reducing high risk drinking at UVM, an issue that challenges all of higher education, is cause for celebration,” said Tom Sullivan, president of the University of Vermont. “I want to thank our staff, faculty and students for their hard work in bringing this important and prestigious award to our campus.”

To be eligible for the award, colleges and universities in the Campus Prevention Network completed the Alcohol Diagnostic Inventory, a comprehensive research-based assessment of an institution’s prevention programs and practices grounded in a decade of peer-reviewed literature on best practices in prevention.  

Awardees were selected based on their Alcohol Diagnostic Inventory scores, Campus Prevention Network staff interviews with campus professionals and a careful review of each institution’s effort.

The final three awardees were chosen from a field of 85 schools who filled out the ADI – placing UVM among the top 3.5 percent of all those who applied. Villanova University and Endicott College were also honored in the high risk drinking and other substance misuse category.

Combination of programs leads to clear progress

UVM’s efforts to reduce high risk drinking have resulted in progress in a number of areas:

  • Binge drinking rates, defined as five drinks for males or four drinks for females within a two-hour period, declined by approximately a third over the last five years.  
  • The number of students requiring medical attention as a result of excessive drinking declined by over fifty percent during the same period.
  • Calls for service for issues including noise, intoxication and disorderly conduct by the Burlington Police Department to traditionally student neighborhoods declined by one third over the last three years.

“We’ve seen that a combination of factors – including transparency in naming the impact of high risk drinking on the safety, health and successful engagement of our students; determination; and using interventions grounded in science – can result in real progress on this issue,” said Dr. Jon Porter, director of UVM’s Center for Health and Wellbeing.

“While it’s gratifying to see this progress, we’re also clear about the importance of continued focus and hard work over the long term,” Porter said.

Actions UVM has taken over the past five years aimed at reducing high risk drinking include the following, organized by constituent group: 

University-wide

  • Joining the National College Health Improvement Project, a group of higher education peers who shared strategies and interventions to reduce high risk drinking.
  • Creation of the President’s Committee on Alcohol, Cannabis, and Other Drugs, composed of 70 staff, faculty, students and community partners. The group developed an action plan for addressing drug and alcohol use on campus and established a data collection/analysis infrastructure.

Parents

  • Engaging parents in addressing students about the impact of high risk drinking and substance use on the quality of life at college. Parents are informed about high risk drinking as an important issue affecting their student’s safety and engagement and are encouraged to have a conversation with their student about choices related to alcohol.

Students

  • Aggressive institution of alcohol-free programming for students during higher risk events/weekends.
  • Review and revision of UVM’s judicial sanctions for violation of alcohol/cannabis policy in accord with best educational practices.
  • Institution of BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students), initially for mandated students and now being used proactively with specific student groups.   
  • Reduction of the turnaround time from violation of alcohol policy to adjudication in campus judicial system.
  • Institution of universal screening for the misuse of alcohol and other substances (SBIRT) in the University’s primary care office. Placement of a behavioral health position in the primary care office, designed to ensure a “warm handoff” from clinician to further evaluation or referral for treatment.
  • Launch of the Wellness Environment in 2014, a substance free on-campus residence hall and learning community that incentivizes healthy student choices. Enrollment has increased from 80 to 1,200. 

Faculty

  • Survey and focus groups carried out by dean of the Honors College to assess faculty perspective on alcohol, cannabis and other drug abuse.
  • Revision of academic calendar to move reading days to the weekend and assist in maintaining academic focus during finals.

Burlington community

  • Mapping of five types of Burlington Police Department “calls for service” related to alcohol in the city’s Area C, where the highest density of students resides. 
  • Weekly review of data, visits to residents of problem units, houses, streets by a team consisting of BPD, UVM, code enforcement.
  • Communication with landlords of problem units reminding them that they are accountable for issues caused by tenants. 

“With so much recent emphasis on the shortcomings in campus prevention and response efforts, EVERFI aims to shift the narrative by highlighting campuses doing exemplary work,” said Rob Buelow, EVERFI vice president of prevention education.

“The Prevention Excellence Awards give us the opportunity to share and celebrate the tremendous commitment institutions are making and continue to make in comprehensive, data-driven, evidence-based and researched informed prevention efforts to build communities that encourage students to thrive,” he said.