Report Finds Inadequate Oversight Of College Alcohol Abuse Prevention Programs

May 3, 2012

A recent report by the US Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General finds inadequate enforcement of a federal law aimed at preventing alcohol and drug abuse on college campuses.   The review was requested by two state lawmakers on behalf of a Connecticut resident.

In 2005, Quinnipiac University student Kristine Guest lost her life in a snowmobile accident.  Her father, Stephen Guest, says she was visiting Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York.   "Even though she had just spent the full night in the midst of significant excesses related to alcohol, in the post mortem test the alcohol level in her system was too low even to measure."

But the driver of the snowmobile was legally intoxicated. Guest says he made a commitment to have her loss lead to positive and effective change.

He contacted state lawmakers,  and in 2010 then- Senator Chris Dodd and US Representative John Larson asked for a review of a part of the Higher Education Act that requires colleges to have programs aimed at preventing alcohol abuse on campus.

The review finds years of essentially no federal oversight, and a current program in need of improvement.    

Colleges and universities are expected to educate students on drug and alcohol policies, on the health risks of binge drinking and on disciplinary actions for violations. They’re also supposed to let students know where they turn for help. 

And Guest says there are several other things colleges can do. "One of them that is very simple.  Have Friday classes." That, he says helps to cut down on partying.

"Something that many colleges are doing is working with the community to limit off-campus parties, prevent underage individuals to be in bars."

The US Department of Education says it will make the necessary changes to improve oversight. 

If federal authorities find colleges and universities in violation of the law, they can offer assistance, or issue sanctions - including a loss of federal funds.