The independent taskforce has released a report, after reviewing campus alcohol policies, which suggests colleges in Cobb need more effective strategies to reduce excessive and underage drinking on their campuses.
The report was aimed at improving alcohol policy at Kennesaw State University, Southern Polytechnic State University, Chattahoochee Technical College and Georgia Highlands College in Marietta, said taskforce coordinator Cathy Finck.
The three report recommendations are: To establish and promote a broad-base support for effective campus alcohol policies; utilize campus data and then select effective policies that are enforced and evaluated; and ensure the policies are easily accessible to students around campus and online.
"The highlights were that the research showed there is evidence to support certain policies for reducing excessive and underage drinking," Finck said.
Some policies that have shown evidence of effectiveness among college students, the report found, include offering brief motivational interventions and challenging alcohol expectancies.
"Another highlight was that presidential leadership is important to develop the plans and support moving them into action," Finck said.
Finck said the task force has shown its report to the four academic institutions, but has not yet discussed it with their officials.
The Journal contacted the county's two largest universities to get their thoughts about the report and what, if any, action they intended to take in response to it. Both universities' police departments are task force members.
SPSU President Lisa Rossbacher acknowledged that students at her university, like others across the country, have had problems related to drinking.
"We occasionally have students who drink too much, but we have multiple processes in place to monitor this," she said. "The resident advisors track the situation, and our programs for student health and wellness are aimed at informing students about the consequences."
Rossbacher said SPSU has already implemented most of the recommendations in the report and that SPSU's assistant director of recreational sports programs, has implementation steps in place for the fall semester.
Last year, there were 44 alcohol-related arrests on campus, said SPSU Interim Chief of Police John Bauer. Punishment can range from conduct sanctions to custodial arrest. The department currently has 18 police officers.
"The SPSU Police Department implements an active foot patrol methodology that permits our officers to patrol most areas on campus," Bauer said. "This has been the 'secret ingredient' to our past success in regards to underage alcohol enforcement and detection."
The KSU Department of Public Safety reported 75 arrests and citations for underage alcohol possession during the 2009 calendar year. During the same calendar year, the KSU Department of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity processed 465 referrals for underage possession.
The department determines the outcome of referrals. The outcome of the arrests and citations is determined by Cobb State Court.
The state's third largest university has 33 KSU police officers who are assisted by 14 security officers.
"I have reviewed the report and applaud the Cobb Alcohol Task Force for their efforts," said Ted Cochran, KSU director of public safety.
KSU's current alcohol policy prohibits the use, possession, sale or distribution of alcoholic beverages on campus by any campus constituency, said Jerome Ratchford, KSU vice president for student success. He said the university recently began a comprehensive evaluation of current policies and procedures.
"The KSU Alcohol and Other Drug Coalition is active and engaged in assessing the effectiveness of its campus alcohol policies and has already incorporated many of the recommendations noted in the report," said Ratchford.
"We look forward to continuing to work with the Cobb Alcohol Taskforce and review their recommendations, as well as the national research in this area."
The Cobb Alcohol Taskforce has announced the creation of a Cobb Safe Neighborhoods Safe Homes campaign to reduce underage drinking. Studies, it found, show private home parties are the primary source by which youth obtain alcohol.
The CSNSH campaign asks Cobb residents to agree to six safety steps to help adults keep youth safe by reducing their access to alcohol. A 6-minute video and interactive distance learning tool can be found at www.cobbat.org/safehomes and on YouTube.