NESCAC-wide survey sheds light on student behavior

On March 1, the second NESCAC Alcohol Survey was administered at Tufts and nine other schools in the NESCAC, including Amherst College, Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, Connecticut College, Hamilton College, Middlebury College and Williams College. 

According to Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon, the first survey of this type took place three years ago in 2012, with Bowdoin College acting as the host for the survey site. This year, the Tufts Office of Institutional Research and Evaluation was responsible for coordinating the survey, McMahon said.

McMahon noted that the NESCAC survey is separate from the American College Health Association (ACHA) survey, which was released to selected students in February.

Ian Wong, director of health promotion and prevention, also emphasized the existence of other surveys used to determine Tufts students’ alcohol use, such as the “First Year First Week” and “Healthy Minds” surveys.

The NESCAC survey’s original inception occurred in response to a desire to identify practices and initiatives at the various NESCAC schools’ campuses, according to McMahon.

“The NESCAC survey was piloted collectively by the deans of student affairs of [the] NESCAC in 2012 to allow these schools, whose students share many common habits and interests, to assess the current state of alcohol and substance use on our individual campuses and to allow us each to compare those results to the data at what are in many ways our peer schools,” she said.

According to McMahon, the results of the NESCAC survey of the Tufts population will be shared with the Office of Residential Life and Learning, the Tufts University Police Department and other colleagues within Student Services in order to promote collaboration across the university.

Wong noted that the information gathered will inform policy and program development.

“As in all surveys we conduct, we are hoping to have a better understanding of alcohol use by Tufts students and how Tufts students’ use compares either regionally or nationally,” Wong said.

The plans for the future include conducting this survey again in three years in order to gain more longitudinal information, McMahon stated.

According to Wong, using survey results spanning over an increasing amount of time, “the future plan is to create programs that will lower the rate of problems related to alcohol use.”

McMahon added that the combination of surveys the university has administered can help Tufts identify general goals for improving student life.

“Surveys can often help identify common priorities for administrators and students, including opportunities to work together to effect positive change,” she said.