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Casteen first recipient
of national award for alcohol and other drug prevention

President John T. Casteen III
Photos by Ian Bradshaw

By Virginia E. Carter

The U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention plans to present an award today to President John T. Casteen III at the Board of Visitors meeting.

Casteen is the first recipient of the Presidents Leadership Group Award, which recognizes college and university presidents who have taken an active role in addressing alcohol and other drug problems on their campus and in the larger community.

“The impact of heavy student alcohol use is felt in all aspects of college life,” said William DeJong, director of the center. “Even so, many top college administrators do not take effective action to address this problem. In contrast, President Casteen stands out in his steadfast commitment to alcohol and other drug prevention.”

Casteen commissioned University-wide alcohol task forces in 1991 and in 1997, and formed a permanent University alcohol advisory committee in 1998. On a state and national level, he has served on the Virginia Governor’s Task Force on Substance Abuse and Sexual Assault on College Campuses, the Virginia Attorney General’s Task Force on Drinking by College Students, and the Task Force on College Drinking established by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

“It is an honor to receive this award on behalf of the University,” Casteen said. “Addressing student alcohol abuse requires many individuals working together in multiple areas. Our common interest is the health and well-being of the young people who come to the University to study and to prepare for the future. I am grateful to the students, administrators, faculty, parents, and other members of the University community whose efforts have contributed to any success we might claim. The issue remains an important one, and our work will continue.”

Under Casteen’s leadership, the University’s comprehensive approach to prevention has helped in developing and adopting several new programs and policies. Overall, the University has improved coordination of prevention, intervention and enforcement activities, more students are involved in prevention, and the number and variety of activities and events has increased.

“Especially encouraging are data from two major surveys the University conducts each year,” said Susan Bruce, director of the University’s Center for Alcohol and Substance Education. “Similar to national indicators, our statistics show that more U.Va. students are choosing to abstain from drinking alcohol. We continue to see high-risk drinking among students, but the rates have leveled off and are beginning to decline after several years of increases.

“Preliminary data from our U.S. Department of Education grant show declines in high-risk drinking rates and negative consequences by fraternity and sorority members who participated in a small group social norms presentation,” said Bruce. “We are encouraged by these results, and are continually working to improve program coordination. The culture of student self-governance at the University has been a big part of our success, in that it ensures our students are significantly engaged in the decision-making process.”

Students collaborate with professionals in the Department of Student Health, which developed the University’s social norms marketing program.

“Based on focus groups and survey data, we design materials that capture students’ attention and show them the facts — that most of their peers on Grounds either do not drink or drink in moderate amounts,” said Dr. James C. Turner, director of student health. “Along with other initiatives, we believe we are making progress in encouraging students to choose healthy behaviors because we have observed a steady decline in serious health consequences over the last several years.”


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