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Understanding How Prevention Initiatives can Work With/in Bureaucratic Structures: An Institutional Ethnography of the University of Saskatchewan Student Binge Drinking Prevention Initiative



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In the past four decades, binge drinking has become a prevalent and concerning issue on North American university campuses. Incidents of binge drinking have led to unwanted and tragic consequences, including student deaths. To counteract this, a group of students at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) worked alongside two faculty members to establish the U of S Student Binge Drinking Prevention Initiative (BDPI). The initiative was developed based on the latest student relevant empirical evidence. Coinciding with BDPI’s establishment was a shift toward a corporate style of administration at Canadian universities, including the U of S, commonly referred to as the Corporate University. This operation style moves away from the traditional mission of the university as an institution of liberal arts academics to a focus on corporate goals such as fundraising, securing industry support, and business management style operations. This form of operation has been criticized for diminishing administrative attention and resources for initiatives focused on bettering the overall university experience of the campus community. During the BDPI’s first year of operation it was met with general support within the campus community, from individual faculty and staff, and small groups of students. However, this was not the case with U of S administration. The BDPI members were faced with unexpected road blocks emanating from the university’s administrative structure, prompting the question of “why?”. To understand the BDPI’s first year of operations within the corporate university structure, I apply Dorothy Smith’s Institutional Ethnography and a combination of Pierre Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice and Paul DiMaggio and Walter Powell’s New Institutionalism to address the question of “how did the University of Saskatchewan Student Binge Drinking Prevention Initiative work with/in the bureaucratic structures of the University of Saskatchewan to gain support from administration for the prevention of binge drinking among the student body?” This thesis fulfills three objectives, which are to: 1. identify how BDPI integrated itself in the U of S in its founding year; 2. map the administrative structures that exist at the university level; and 3. identify the tools needed to work through post-secondary institutional structures. The thesis concludes with identifying the themes from the data and offering recommendations to the university on how to incorporate a student voice into its policy and procedure discussions as it shifts towards a more corporatized operation.



Binge drinking, Corporate University, Theory of Practice, Institutional Ethnography



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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