Campus News

Task force tackles alcohol, drug abuse on USG campuses

A University System of Georgia task force has provided recommendations to curb alcohol and substance abuse across the system’s colleges and universities.

The USG Alcohol and Substance Abuse Task Force, which was co-chaired by UGA President Jere W. Morehead and Savannah State University President Cheryl Dozier, provided nine recommendations aimed at addressing alcohol and substance abuse. Those recommendations were targeted at student attitudes and culture, education and prevention, and town and gown relations.

“Alcohol and drug abuse is a serious concern on campuses across the nation,” Morehead said. “Our task force members conducted surveys and focus groups, ­interviewed experts and consulted best practices as we examined the issues over the course of the year. All of our 29 campuses are different, and resources are not the same, but we were able to identify common steps that we can take to address this issue.”

Last July, USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby convened the task force in response to a 2015 recommendation by the USG Campus Safety and Security Committee, which found that “the abuse of alcohol and other substances is a significant contributing factor in many of the most serious public safety issues” and should therefore receive additional study. He charged the task force with developing recommendations related to alcohol and substance abuse at the system’s institutions.

Earlier this month, the task force released its nine recommendations, which were approved by the board of regents.

Among the recommendations were for each USG institution to assess student attitudes and culture about alcohol and other drugs on their campus; to develop comprehensive, evidence-based programs to reduce abuse; and to provide counselors and trained professionals to offer support and education. In addition, the task force recommended that the University System engage with the Department of Revenue to explore stronger penalties for the underage sale of alcohol and similar violations.

Institutions were encouraged to promote greater interaction between officials involved in alcohol enforcement on campus and in the local community.

Many of the service recommendations have long been in place at UGA through the University Health Center’s Fontaine Center for Alcohol Awareness. Part of the Division of Student Affairs, the center offers a range of evidence-based prevention, early intervention and recovery support services to UGA students. Liz Prince, director of the Fontaine Center, also served on the task force.

Although the work of the task force has ended, the group also proposed that each institution participate in regular, system-wide meetings to discuss trends and share best practices related to substance abuse. The Fontaine Center was listed as a resource for this future collaboration.

In addition, the task force noted the importance of continuing to ensure that the voice of USG students is heard and is part of future discussions. Houston Gaines, president of UGA’s Student Government Association, was one of four USG student representatives serving on the task force.

With the release of the recommendations, each of the USG institutions is charged with implementing policies to curb alcohol and substance abuse on their campuses.