Date of Award

5-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Educational Leadership

Advisor

Havice, Pamela A

Committee Member

Cawthon , Tony

Committee Member

Satterfield , James

Committee Member

Cassidy , Jason

Abstract

High-risk drinking is an endemic health and safety issue for college campuses in the United States (U.S.). While public health officials have recommended various models for campus alcohol prevention efforts, in 2008 a group of college presidents recommended a controversial strategy: reconsidering the U.S. minimum legal drinking age (MLDA). The primary purpose of this study was to explore how Chief Student Affairs Officers (CSAOs) describe the impact of the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) on high-risk drinking and alcohol-related issues on college and university campuses. The secondary purpose was to describe the impact of the Amethyst Initiative (AI), the aforementioned effort to re-examine the MLDA, on CSAOs who work on campuses that did and did not sign the AI.
Discursive methods of policy analysis (Fischer, 2003) were used to address the research questions, specifically interpretive policy analysis (Yanow, 2000) and discourse analysis (Gee, 2005, 2011). Analyses included a discourse analysis of the Amethyst Initiative Presidential Statement and discourse analysis of interviews with CSAOs. Participants were eight CSAOs from campuses whose presidents signed the AI and eight CSAOs from similar campuses that did not sign the AI.
The CSAOs in this study approached alcohol abuse prevention with a focus on preventing dangerous and irresponsible drinking rather than underage drinking. CSAOs attempted to develop a balanced approach to prevention and enforcement efforts, as they simultaneously balanced the complex roles of a CSAO with various campus constituents. CSAOs who participated in this study expressed a range of beliefs about the changeability of campus alcohol abuse issues and the possible effects of a lower MLDA.
Individually, the CSAOs who participated in this study expressed a variety of viewpoints about the MLDA and the AI, whether or not their president signed the AI. Three-quarters expressed some level of personal opposition to the current MLDA, but all cited policy enforcement as an important tool in addressing alcohol abuse on their campuses. The CSAOs in this study displayed a broad range of involvement by their president in the decision whether or not to sign the AI.
Overall, the AI had little impact on CSAOs' interpretation and implementation of the MLDA. Participants from both AI and non-AI institutions reported that the AI failed to capture the attention and imagination of their campuses and the broader culture.

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