Editorial: Collaborative is a positive step for NU alcohol policy

On May 2, Northwestern University pledged to join the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking, a coalition against binge drinking initiated by Dartmouth College president Jim Kim. The collaborative, through biannual meetings, will share and evaluate the implementation of practical plans to both reduce the harm and decrease the amount of binge drinking on college campuses. As one of 14 universities in the collaborative, NU’s involvement is a positive step toward a more effective approach to binge drinking on campus.

Kim’s evaluation of drinking as a public health issue rather than a disciplinary one will lead Northwestern to better approach, assess and mitigate binge drinking among its students. In past years, NU has tried different methods of limiting binge drinking with little visible success. As it stands, widespread NU student involvement with alcohol policy is limited to an Essential NU during Wildcat Welcome of freshman year.

The Collaborative’s expectation of active and sustained participation will lead the University to focus on its alcohol policy beyond a mandatory speech in the fall. Given the collaborative nature of the program, Northwestern will not only have ample opportunity to learn from initiatives taking place across the country but will be held accountable for innovating such initiatives. The program will also include a monthly conference call to ‘check-in’ on each university’s programs. Northwestern, along with the other schools involved, will be expected to bring practical solutions that work towards the Collaborative’s goals as well as follow up on the implementation of these solutions. NU administration should be proactive in its role with the organization and work to both contribute and, like the group’s namesake, collaborate with peer institutions.

At the same time, as a Collaborative, it considers the different cultures of each university and does not mandate the implementation of any given policy measure. Northwestern should be sure to take advantage of its membership of this Collaborative by both learning from and contributing to the breadth of knowledge universities will provide.