Frostburg State University President Jonathan Gibralter, who has emerged in recent years as a national leader in efforts to reduce the culture of high-risk drinking among college students, is continuing in that role in a new position as co-chair of the College Presidents Working Group to Address Harmful Student Drinking of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism(NIAAA). NIAAA is one of the 27 Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health and the lead federal agency for research on alcohol, including on college drinking.
Gibralter was invited to join the group when it was formed in 2011. He was selected as co-chair following the resignation of former Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim when Kim was named president of the World Bank. Gibralter’s co-chair is Dr. Robert Carothers, president emeritus of the University of Rhode Island.
“It is important that college and university presidents take a leadership role in describing the impact of high-risk drinking, just as we have a role to play in speaking out on any topic that affects the well-being of our students,” Gibralter said. “I’m proud that this appointment highlights the success that FSU has achieved through our broad-based and research-supported efforts.”
FSU has seen a significant decline in high-risk – sometimes called “binge” – drinking in recent years. Based on the national Core Drug and Alcohol Survey, administered to FSU students every three years since 1997, the percentage of students who reported binge-drinking (five or more drinks at a sitting) within the previous two weeks fell from 59 percent in 1997 to 41 percent in 2012, below the national average of 43.1 percent. Similar decreases were reported among those students who reported drinking anything at all for the previous 30 days. Perhaps most telling, the average number of drinks students reported consuming per week dropped from 9.5 in 1997 to 3.9 in 2012; the majority of that decrease has occurred since 2006, which is the year Gibralter assumed FSU’s presidency.
Gibralter and FSU have both been recognized nationally for this leadership. In 2008, Gibralter was given the first-ever Presidential Leadership Award from a group of seven major higher education organizations for his success in promoting a vibrant intellectual and social campus climate that de-emphasizes the role of alcohol.
In 2011, FSU was invited to join the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking, housed at Dartmouth, a group predominantly populated by flagship state universities or Ivy League schools.
Gibralter has spoken at numerous conferences and presented workshops about FSU’s efforts and the importance of presidential leadership in fighting alcohol abuse. He was a featured contributor on the topic in the spring 2012 issue of “The Presidency,” the American Council on Education’s magazine.
The NIAAA College Presidents Working Group to Address Harmful Student Drinking was formed to help bridge the gap between research that continues to identify promising interventions and the development of real-world campus programs to address alcohol-related problems. The 10 presidents in the invitation-only group advise NIAAA on both the types of information they need and the ways they want to receive it.
One practical remedy under development by the NIAAA is an idea promoted by the presidents group: an interactive, user-friendly, online “decision support system” to help colleges and universities select appropriate strategies to meet their alcohol intervention goals. The ultimate goal is to share science-based information in accessible and practical ways to provide college administrators with a planning foundation.
Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.