Assessing Campus Alcohol Policies: Measuring Accessibility, Clarity, and Effectiveness
Sanctions classified as most effective were those that panelists agreed would have a strong, population‐wide deterrent effect as stand‐alone measures. These included student organization probation and loss of student organization status, which panelists agreed were potent deterrents due to their permanent, structural effects on the physical and normative drinking environments on campus. Sanctions categorized as somewhat effective included those that would have some effect as a stand‐alone sanction, but whose effectiveness would be heightened as part of a “package” of graduated sanctions or stepped‐care procedures working in tandem to deter policy violations, and appropriately intervene with individuals found in violation, respectively. These included individual suspension and probation, which, because of their severity and the extended deliberative process often required to enforce them, become less swift and certain, and consequently less effective, at the population level as stand‐alone measures. Additionally, panelists determined that alcohol evaluation/screening would be most effective as a part of a stepped‐care model with a clear referral in the policy language to an evidence‐based program for the students in need. While this consequence does not necessarily have a population‐level impact, it could prove crucial for students benefiting from brief interventions and referral to treatment.
Furthermore, to be most effective, sanctions should be clearly tied to specific policy violations. Deterrence is critical to effective enforcement and rests on the perception that violations will incur swift, certain, and sufficiently severe sanctions (Decker and Kohfield, 1990; Grogger, 1991; Ross, 1984). Certainty has been shown to be the most relevant and effective factor in deterring behaviors that warrant sanctions, especially among college students (Nagin and Pogarsky, 2001; Tittle, 1969). Assessment of certainty was deemed beyond the scope of this research; however, recommendations about increasing certainty, often in the form of tying specific sanctions to violation of specific policies, were included in the final recommendations to the schools.