For years, schools have been keenly aware of the impact that alcohol use has on personal safety. The research - particularly that used by insurance companies - has identified the connection between alcohol use and everything from minor injuries to more serious bodily harm to loss of life. Less recognized is how alcohol’s intersection with safety also impacts an institution’s well-being and inclusion efforts.
Beyond alcohol-related injuries resulting from intoxication, there are particular secondhand effects such as alcohol-fueled acts of aggression, hostility, and racial bias, which often result in students’ concern for their personal safety at the hands of other students. One report, The Color of Drinking, was among the first to recognize the impact on one group, in particular: students of color. The report identified that 65% of students of color found the alcohol culture on their campus to have a negative impact on their college experience. They reported being called derogatory names and racial slurs and having their race and ethnicity questioned by intoxicated students, requiring them to circumvent specific areas of campus in order to avoid harassment and threats to their safety. Further research has identified not only decreased academic success and quality of life outcomes, but the potential for increased substance use in response.
Safety, well-being, and inclusion don’t exist in silos. Threats to safety also increase the risk of developing mental health challenges as a result of feeling isolated, lonely, and depressed. Further, some of our more vulnerable students, especially those already disproportionately impacted by racial and gender-based acts of incivility, are also less likely to seek help for mental health concerns. Broadening our understanding of the role that alcohol plays in undermining efforts to create safe living and learning environments also reinforces the need for cross-departmental collaboration to address these challenges.
Asking any of our students to navigate an environment that is characterized by high-risk alcohol use can feel anything but inclusive, and anything but supportive of their safety and personal success. Because young adults learn better and do better overall when they feel safe, it follows that when these types of incidents go unaddressed and unrecognized, they can slowly chip away at students’ sense of belonging and an institution’s commitment to maintaining a safe and inclusive community where all students are able to thrive.
Vector Solutions offers a variety of Alcohol Misuse Prevention courses for students. These courses educate students on the realities and misconceptions of alcohol use as well as successful strategies for handling dangerous situations related to alcohol. Each provides extensive, research-backed evidence of the detrimental effects alcohol can have, and how social skills and interactions can help reduce harm associated with alcohol.
Senior Director, Impact & Education
At Vector Solutions, Kimberley serves as a subject matter expert in alcohol and other drug misuse prevention, prescription drug safety, and hazing prevention. She also supports our Fraternity and Sorority National organization partners. Kimberley has worked in the alcohol and other drug prevention field for more than 25 years, directing nationally recognized prevention programs and accruing an impressive range of experience and expertise that informs our substance misuse-related course content, and ensures Vector Solutions' thought leadership is aligned with current research and innovative practice.