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The Color of Drinking: Assessing the Impact of the Alcohol Culture on Students of Color

Health, Safety, and Well-being Alcohol and Other Drug
Reonda Washington

In alcohol prevention efforts, work is often focused on reducing high-risk drinking among high-risk drinking population. For years, this was true at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But were our efforts always effective for all student populations?

After surveying our students and finding that students of color are some of our lowest-risk drinkers, we wanted to investigate the impact our alcohol culture has on students of color. To that end, we created the Color of Drinking survey, and used it along with an analysis of social media to gain better perspective on this question. This session will examine the intersection of alcohol prevention and social justice and strategies implemented with campus partners to create a more inclusive environment.

In March 2015, the Color of Drinking Survey was administered with 490 students filling out the survey. Questions on the survey asked participants about race; drinking behavior; the UW-Madison alcohol culture; academic impacts of drinking; microagressions; and what the university could do to address the alcohol culture. Among the results, we found: 65% of participants identified that the UW-Madison drinking culture has impacted their overall experience at the university; 28% of participants identified that the alcohol culture had an impact on their academics and 62% of participants reported experiencing microaggressions from other UW-Madison students on campus (48% of students reported experiencing microagressions from UW-Madison students who were intoxicated). Overall, 41% of the participants felt that the university should be taking more action to address the alcohol culture.

This session will help participants strategize on how to engage campus partners around the intersectionality of alcohol and racial justice. More importantly, participants will learn how to best to respond in ways that are centered in the plurality of student of color communities, recognizing the ways prevention services on college campus have historically and traditionally addressed student drinking are with White students in mind. How do we as staff help students of color thrive in these spaces?

Learning Outcomes

Through this session, participants will: 

  • gain knowledge about a mixed methods approach for evaluating the experiences of students of color;
  • be able to identify one strategy to engage campus partners around alcohol and social justice issues;  and
  • gain an understanding of how alcohol can impact climate issues.
Course Length
Course Type
On Demand

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