New Jersey City University Town Hall Meeting on Underage Drinking
A College Campus Culture Survey was conducted at two Jersey City universities - New Jersey City University (NJCU) and St. Peter’s University. Among the 2014 survey findings were that 46 percent of all students had consumed alcohol during the prior month and that the most common sources were liquor stores, where students obtained alcohol without IDs (65 percent), followed by social functions and parties (55 percent). Among the consequences reported were that 16 percent of students blackout and 12 percent have unprotected sex. The results of this survey indicate that easy access to alcohol contributes significantly to underage drinking and the health threats that can follow.
These survey findings support the statement issued by Lisa Bogran in a press release publicizing the Jersey City Alliance Town Hall Meeting, “Preventing youth alcohol abuse is a community problem which needs community solutions. We hope people make it a priority to come out on Wednesday evening to be a part of the solution to reduce underage drinking in Hudson County.” Bogran is coalition coordinator for Partners in Prevention, which helped to organize the event. Fifty-three Town Hall Meeting participants, including 35 NJCU students braved 6 inches of rain to make this event a priority.
The Town Hall Meeting was sponsored by the Hudson County Coalition for a Drug-Free Community, the Jersey City Municipal Alliance, and the NJCU Peers Educating Peers group. The goal of the meeting was to discuss issues related to underage drinking in order to make the community more aware of problems and possible ways to reduce them. Organizers also hoped that the meeting would kick-start the organizing of a College Alcohol Task Force at NJCU.
Participants heard from the following panelists regarding their experiences and thoughts about preventing underage and high-risk drinking, particularly among college students: Doug Bratton, executive director of Partners in Prevention; Anthony Jenkins, clinical director at New Pathway Counseling Services; and Stephanie Nieto, a student at Passaic Community College.
Participants responded to questions regarding alcohol use, perceptions, problems, and solutions by using the clicker survey system, which relies on handheld wireless devices with just a few buttons and immediately displays a bar graph of responses in the room.
Yaisa Coronado, assistant director of Partners in Prevention, facilitated the clicker survey, which was based on questions similar to those in the previous student survey. As an example, participants were asked to respond to the question “How do most Hudson County youth (people under 21) get alcohol?” Choices (and response rates) were “(a) From friends over 21” (50 percent), “(b) Get it from home or a friend’s home without permission” (38 percent), and “(c) From a liquor store”(0 percent) and “(d) Other” (13 percent). These percentages are in stark contrast to the 65 percent of college students who responded to the College Campus Culture Survey that they obtained alcohol from liquor stores, without ID checks.
A significant portion of the discussion dealt with participant awareness of New Jersey’s legislative approaches to reducing underage drinking and its consequences, including its 911 Hold Harmless law and its private property ordinance. Under the Hold Harmless law, minors who call 911 when a peer appears in danger of alcohol poisoning and remain with the peer until an ambulance arrives will not be charged for underage drinking nor will the person receiving medical care. New Jersey modeled its law after similar legislation enacted in Colorado in 2005 to help reduce the death of underage individuals from binge drinking. Another state law is the Private Property ordinance, which allows police to enter private property if they have a reasonable suspicion that underage drinking is occurring. Panelists also responded to a question about retaining the minimum legal drinking age of 21.
In addition to the clicker survey discussion, the 2-hour event included a performance by the Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity steppers (NJCU is a Hispanic-Serving Institution member of Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities).
Highlights of the NJCU Town Hall Meetings are available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCoNPRs2g6E
MEASURES OF SUCCESS
To evaluate the event, organizers developed a 2-page handout for participants that included questions about the event and a brief community survey about alcohol availability, as well as the agenda and acknowledgments of event supporters. Bogran was very pleased with feedback about the Town Hall Meeting, with 75 percent of respondents rating the event as excellent and 25 percent as very good.
A number of participants said that they wanted to get involved with efforts to prevent underage drinking, leading Brogan to comment that “I think that we are off to a good start with our College Alcohol Task Force as a result of our Town Hall Meeting.”
Students who expressed interest in doing more prevention work on their campus were invited to attend task force meetings. Twelve students attended the first meeting, held on May 22. The task force met again on June 19. It will meet regularly in the upcoming academic year and focus on preventing underage drinking and prescription drug abuse on campus. In addition, all Town Hall Meeting participants received information regarding the Hudson County Coalition for a Drug-Free Community and were invited to attend the coalition’s monthly meetings to continue prevention work locally.
For more information, contact: