The results of the NESCAC Alcohol and Drug Survey show Bowdoin in line with other peer schools in the majority of categories, though Bowdoin students are significantly happier with the College’s alcohol and drug policies. Bowdoin also had a noticeable increase in students’ willingness to intervene when friends are intoxicated.

The survey was first conducted in the spring of 2012, and the NESCAC plans to run it every three years. In 2012, Bowdoin coordinated the survey and analyzed the data; this year, it was coordinated by Tufts. 

For Associate Director of Health Promotion Whitney Hogan, the best—and most surprising—statistics this year were those surrounding bystander intervention. 

“The biggest surprise, and it was a pleasant surprise, were the statistics around bystander stuff,” she said. “Those were much higher than I thought they were going to be. I thought that they were very, very hopeful. I believe Bowdoin is a place where students feel compelled to step up and step in.”

The percentages of students who answered “yes” to questions about specific scenarios surrounding “a sense of responsibility to step in with an intoxicated friend,” were significantly higher than in 2012.  For example, in 2015, 97 percent of students said they would intervene with a friend who is about to drive a car as compared with 87 percent in 2012.  

Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster pointed to the bystander intervention statistics as a high point in the survey. 

“One of the things you’ll see screaming through the data is the changes between 2012 and 2015 where students are intervening when they’re concerned about someone else, and that is just so very important,” said Foster.

“The highlight of my fall has been the bystander statistics,” Hogan said. 

Hogan credits the trends in those numbers in part to changes in programming that came following the 2012 survey. 

“Since 2012, every upperclassman leader every single year has gone through active bystander training where the message is that Bowdoin is a place students look out for one another,” she said. “I think that’s clearly shown in the statistics.”

Foster also highlighted data showing that Bowdoin students tend to be happier with administrative policies than students at other schools. For example, 96 percent of survey respondents agreed that administration encourages responsible drinking, compared to 81 percent at peer schools. 

“People seem to feel that the policies and the general college approach to dealing with alcohol is right-minded,” he said. “I feel good about that. I think the key thing for me is...that we have found a good balancing point between focusing on student health and safety.” 

Though Hogan will not be distributing the full results of the survey, some results will inform continued programing of both Peer Health and the Alcohol Team (A-Team). 

According to Hogan, student leaders in those groups will use the statistics in one-on-one conversations with students, during the yearly alcohol summit, alcohol use screenings and on posters throughout campus. 

“Sometimes people may be surprised by these statistics and sometimes they may just be what people were expecting,” said Jillian Burk ’16, a student leader on Peer Health and member of the A-Team. “But it’s just something to have in the back of your mind—what the culture and the social life is like here at Bowdoin—and whether or not there are areas for improvement.” 

Student responses to the statistics will drive changes in Peer Health and the A-Team going forward. 

“Through students’ responses to the data, that often shifts what we want to do in the future,” said Hogan. “There’ll probably be some changes to programs in the spring but even more next fall.”