As public health professionals and prevention advocates we feel compelled to respond to the State Board of Higher Education taking up the matter of allowing state universities to establish their own alcohol policies. This concerns us for a variety of reasons and the research supports this concern.
Excessive alcohol consumption poses a significant risk to health and well-being on college campuses. North Dakota ranks second in the nation for binge drinking among adults, with college-aged North Dakotans reporting the highest rates of binge drinking among all age groups.
The consequences of harmful and underage drinking by college students are significant, destructive and costly. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking by college students contributes to nearly 2,000 deaths every year, and is associated with violence and assault, rape, crime, decreased academic performance, and risky sexual behavior.
Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption costs North Dakota $487 million per year. In a state where alcohol is the number one concern, the SBHE Academic and Student Affairs Committee’s recent decision to give state universities power over campus alcohol policies comes as an unwelcome surprise. The easier alcohol is to obtain, the higher likelihood for use and abuse.
Research shows that substance abuse and prevention efforts, including comprehensive alcohol policies banning the sale and use of alcohol on college campuses, have been successful in reducing rates of college binge drinking. There is no evidence supporting the claim that beer availability at sporting events increases attendance or boosts revenue.
However, research has found a link between alcohol use and violent behavior among sports fans.
The committee’s decision threatens to undermine the progress that public health professionals have made in protecting college students, campuses and communities from the dangers of excessive alcohol use. The Mission of NDUS and the SBHE is to enhance the quality of life for all those served by the NDUS as well as the economic and social vitality of North Dakota.
Allowing universities to obtain liquor licenses and serve alcohol in venues that cater to a student audience is inconsistent with the SBHE’s mission and jeopardizes the health and welfare of students, campuses, communities and North Dakota.
We sincerely hope the university presidents in North Dakota will use their power to do what is right to protect the health and safety of the students at their institutions.