Generally, the data you find in the DataSphere is found data. It’s tables and spreadsheets and databases we’ve found on government Websites, or obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
But this summer, a database we wanted didn’t exist, so we set out to build it ourselves. As part of our ongoing series on the Amethyst Initiative to re-examine the legal drinking age and college drinking in general, we sent a survey to 44 Virginia colleges to gather data on their alcohol policies, enforcement of them, the number of alcohol related disciplinary actions on campus, and each college president’s position on the Amethyst Initiative.
The results are in, and you can see the first wave of data from the survey now. It’s an interactive map with markers for each of the colleges we surveyed, a digest of part of their responses, and a link to their unabridged answers to some of the questions.
The map and data, along with all of our coverage in the series are collected on a site devoted to our series.
We sent the survey only to four-year colleges with on campus housing, whether public or private. In other words, schools offering some version of traditional campus life. Fewer than half the colleges completed the survey, while several more declined to complete for various reasons, but in most cases because of concerns about how the questions were phrased or that their responses would be handled fairly in being compared to other schools. The remainder simply didn’t respond at all.
Still, there’s plenty to be learned from the responses we did get. To begin with, we’re looking at which school presidents support the Amethyst Initiative, and which don’t. As you’ll read in my analysis, the idea of re-considering the legal drinking age and possibly lowering it appears to be generating only weak opposition in Virginia. The largest block of those presidents whose positions we documented are undecided.
We’re not done with the data, and the most interesting stuff may be yet to come. With the next installment in the series, we’ll be rolling out more of the schools’ responses, and layering other data onto the map, such as where the highest volume liquor stores are located in relation to college campuses, where other alcohol sellers are located, and which of them have been caught selling to underage buyers.
In the meantime, post your questions and comments here. I’ll be glad to get them.