Increase in Calls for Alcohol-Related Help Is Good News

News subtitle

Wellness Director Caitlin Barthelmes: “Students are looking out for one another.”

Baker Tower at sunset
(Photo by Eli Burakian ’00) 

Dartmouth undergraduates made more calls for help on their own behalf or to assist someone else during an alcohol-related incident in the past year than in any year since the College began tracking so-called Good Samaritan calls in 2011.

That’s good news, says Caitlin Barthelmes, director of the Student Wellness Center. “This gives us hope that the initiatives and strategies we’ve put in place in recent years may be having a positive impact on the trends we are seeing on campus.”

“When a student or their friend needs help, we want them to call for assistance. That’s one way we can continue to make our community a safer place,” she says. “We’re pleased that students are looking out for one another.”

The 131 Good Samaritan calls, up 36 percent for the year ending on June 30, are included in the College’s annual release of data on alcohol-related incidents. The information also shows:

  • The number of medical calls in which a student was found to have a high blood-alcohol level (defined as around .25, which is more than three times New Hampshire’s .08 legal limit) continued to remain low, with 30 such incidents, a slight drop from the previous year’s 35 calls.
  • Overall alcohol-related incidents involving safety and security officers or residential life staff are also down, with 388 calls logged compared to the previous year’s 414 calls.
  • The number of medical encounters for alcohol intoxication in which a student received care at the College health service or at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center rose slightly, from 176 to 185 incidents.

Since the fall of 2011, Dartmouth has tracked alcohol-related incidents and implemented a number of programs to reduce high-risk behavior, including alcohol abuse. The College banned hard alcohol for undergraduates in March 2015 as part of the Moving Dartmouth Forward initiative, which promotes student safety and well-being.

New initiatives in the past several years include alcohol screening in the health service; creation of the wellness center in Robinson Hall; use of the Brief Alcohol Screening for College Students (BASICS) program, which helps students identify their values about alcohol consumption; and a variety of peer-based programs, including the Dartmouth Bystander Initiative, which trains students to intervene when they see others in high-risk situations. Under the Good Samaritan policy, students who seek assistance or help another student are not subject to College disciplinary action for violations of the alcohol policy.

No one program or strategy is responsible for reducing alcohol-related incidents, says Barthelmes. And she cautions that the annual alcohol figures can fluctuate over time.

Still, she says, “the high number of Good Samaritan calls combined with the low number of medical encounters with high blood-alcohol levels could be signaling a shift in student behavior.”

The alcohol-related data is posted on the wellness center website.

Barthelmes says it’s important for this data to be shared with the public. “A commitment to transparency through data sharing is key for all members of our community to evaluate current practices and make informed decisions that can contribute to creating a healthier, safer campus.”

Susan J. Boutwell