Research study focuses on impact of drinking culture on UNC students of color

The Color of Drinking study – a collaboration between the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and the Campus & Community Coalition of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership focuses on how students of color are impacted by college drinking culture.

The UNC study also focuses on the experiences of LGBTQ+ students.

“This is research that has never been done before, and so we are really contributing to a better understanding of the secondary harms of alcohol in BIPOC and LGBTQ students,” said Elinor Landess, Director of Campus & Community. Coalition.

Before being applied to UNC, the study was conducted in 2017 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The initial study, led by Reonda Washington, UW-Madison University’s alcohol and other drug prevention coordinator, showed that alcohol consumption is linked to how students connect and belong. Alcohol culture disproportionately affects the physical and mental safety of students of color compared to white students, according to the UW-Madison study.

Nora Emmott, a graduate student working on the UNC study, said the survey garnered more than 1,400 student responses.

“Individual drinking behaviors can affect the wider community, and the secondary harms of alcohol are really serious, and I think it’s not really seen that often,” Emmott said.

Data analysis

Alicia Freeman, mental health first aid coordinator at the UNC School of Social Work, said the study gave her a better understanding of the individual impacts of alcohol culture on college students.

The goal of the study was to obtain data that provides qualitative and quantitative evidence about the effects of alcohol, she said. The research team spent time formulating questions and meeting with student groups prior to the January survey.

The survey portion of the study ended in February, Freeman said.

“I personally find qualitative data to be so impactful because you can really hear student stories and the real impact of how it feels on an individual level, even if it’s a systemic issue” , she said.

Landess said the research team expects to finalize the data by the end of April.

“What we hope is that by putting hard numbers behind the very real lived experiences of students at UNC, we will be able to advocate for more resources, for better support for students of color” , she said.

“We want students to feel safe”

The study found that many social events at UNC revolve around drinking, Emmott said, and that heavy drinking is often supported by peers, especially among freshmen and college students. second year.

She said that beyond dangerous drinking environments, alcohol is also used by students as a coping mechanism for things like academic and social stress.

Freeman said the initial study — on which the UNC study was based — found that many students of color experienced more harm and felt unsafe in alcohol-related situations.

Early results from the study conducted at UNC mirror the UW-Madison study.

A major trend seen in the UNC study is that many students identifying as black women who participated in the study said they had considered leaving college, Freeman said.

“It’s the retention issue that we hope will have an impact,” Freeman said. “We want students to feel safe and comfortable and like they belong here and don’t have to consider leaving school because of other people’s drinking.”

Sophomore Ahmi Aghedo, who was involved in the survey, said they were looking for fellowship before attending a party to find out if it was safe to attend.

“If I’m going to a party, I don’t really think about how much alcohol or drugs I’m going to consume, rather I think about whether it’s safe for me to go,” they said. “Am I really going to have a good time?”

Aghedo said they should keep their own safety in mind.

“If you just want to have fun and hang out, but have to talk to your other friends of color and figure out where it’s safe to go, you worry and then you hear bad stories,” they said.

Next steps

Landess said the Campus & Community Coalition encourages the implementation of policies that can create a safer university environment by limiting access to common-source alcohol at parties.

The team will first share the data with participants to make sure they’re telling their story correctly, said Kaitlyn Loefstedt, another graduate student working on the study.

“We want to make sure that we share the results with (participating students) first-hand,” she said.

With the release of the data, the team aims to increase awareness of these issues on the UNC campus and direct more funding toward alcohol-free initiatives.

“What the University needs to recognize is the fear that a lot of people of color have because it can impact your college experience,” Aghedo said.

UNC Student Welfare Offers different educational programs and resources consumption of surrounding substances, including Caroline after dark, an initiative that organizes non-alcoholic events for students from Thursday to Saturday. More information can be found on the Student welfare website.

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Paul N. Strickland