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Student Honesty Questioned in CCAM Drug & Alcohol Survey

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The combination of drugs and alcohol and an honest survey do not really seem to go well together. However, recently, students at Carleton were asked to complete a brief survey about drug and alcohol usage at Carleton.

The main reasoning behind survey was to fulfill the grant Carleton was given by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). According to Mr. Patrick Gordon, the project coordinator of the Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention department, “The very first step of the process is assessment and data collection. Before the Carleton Coalition on Alcohol & Marijuana (CCAM) moves forward with any strategic planning, we have to truly understand what the story is with regard to alcohol and marijuana on our campus.”

The CCAM will use this information along with the Minnesota College Student Health Survey, focus groups, community incident report data, community leader interview assessment data, liquor license density data in Northfield, and Northfield Police report data in order to understand the big picture of alcohol on the Carleton campus.

1100 students, or about, 61% of all Carleton student completed the survey, which the CCAM was fairly pleased with. However, one has to wonder how honest these survey responses are because of the nature of the survey.

Mr. Gordon has been at Carleton since 2011, “and has known students to be very upfront and honest with their opinions, especially when it comes to topics that Carls care about in the community.”

However, that being said, Mr. Gordon admits he has “no way of knowing if students were truly honest or not.” However, with the high percentage of student participation, “it appears to be a topic that Carls do care about it.”

Members of the CCAM will help Mr. Gordon analyze the data from more of a student’s perspective.

One anonymous student said “I did not answer the survey honestly because I did not truly believe the survey was anonymous.”

Though participant dishonesty could be a flaw of the survey, the hope is that most of the responses were open and honest. Freshman Jared Johnson said he “did answer the questions accurately but the questions were on a pretty subjective grading scale so it was unclear how accurate they were.”

The questions on the survey mainly surrounded the prevalence of alcohol and marijuana usage at Carleton from a student’s perspective. Johnson also said regarding the effectiveness of the survey “it seemed like a good way to get a basic feel for campus’s relationship with drugs and such, but not very effective for specifics.”

Fellow freshman, Nicolas Graese who also completed the survey honestly said he answered the survey honestly because he “did not have any reason to lie about stuff.”

He believed that it “it was an effective survey because it was clear, easy and quick, which is important for surveys.”

Still, some students did not fill out the survey for various reasons, one anonymous student said that she did not fill out the survey because she “did not have a lot of extra time and eventually ended up forgetting about it.”

However, while lack of participation could be a potential flaw of the student survey, the hope of the CCAM and Mr. Gordon is that this survey will “help inform our story around student perceptions.”

The results of this survey will be online by the end of the month for interested students.

This year’s survey was in connection with the grant Carleton received, but the CCAM does not know if they will continue to distribute this survey over the next few years. Mr. Gordon said “There is no question that we will want to continue to gather information each year to understand trends of what is happening with our students and evaluate the outcomes of the strategic plan.”

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