National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week: Best Practices for Supporting Students
October 17-21 is National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week. Held each year during the third week of October, the event aims to bring attention to issues posed by excessive drinking among college students. The topic is particularly relevant at this time of year, as most colleges' and universities' calendars are packed with football games, homecoming events, and Halloween, among other celebrations.When drinking on college campuses gets out of hand, the consequences can be serious. According to the 2015 National College Health Assessment released by the American College Health Association, in the year prior to being surveyed, 20.6 percent of students had unprotected sex, over 34 percent said they did something they regretted, and 29 percent forgot where they were or what they did while intoxicated. Over 20 percent of students reported having driven after drinking alcohol in the last 30 days prior to taking the survey.
Alcohol safety should be a priority year-round for colleges and universities, but this week is a helpful reminder to follow best practices on campus. Here are five things student conduct administrators can do to support students and help them stay safe and make smart decisions about alcohol.
1. Keep Open Communication with Student Leaders
Resident Assistants (RAs), presidents of fraternities and sororities on campus, student government members and other prominent students on campus can serve as invaluable liaisons to the student conduct office in spreading information about alcohol safety. It's important to keep an open line of communication and build relationships with these student leaders, who can reach the campus population on a peer-to-peer level.
2. Know Campus Policies About Drinking
When an incident involving alcohol does happen on campus, it's up to student conduct administrators to make sure that the right protocols and procedures are followed. It's important to know the school policies regarding everything from handling cases of underage drinking, to enforcing alcohol restrictions/limitations at Greek life events, to addressing incidents that may occur while students are intoxicated, such as sexual harassment or assault.
3. Help Create a Culture of Reporting
Alcohol safety is not just about teaching students how to take care of themselves, but how to look out for others as well. Alcohol awareness initiatives should include information about how to be a supportive bystander and step in when someone needs help. In order for students to feel comfortable stepping in — either by directly offering help, or reporting nefarious behavior to campus faculty — relies on building a culture where students feel safe speaking up, and feel a sense of responsibility to support their peers.
4. Remember to Look for Patterns and Shifts in Behavior
When a student violates a rule of conduct regarding alcohol, it may be a one-time problem that can be handled by simply administering the intervention set in place by school policy. However, it's also important to look for patterns and shifts in behavior. Depending on the student and the circumstances surrounding the incident, the individual's behavior may be an indicator of a larger problem that should be monitored or investigated further.
5. Teach Students How to Deal with Stress in a Healthy Way
Today's typical college student experiences a lot of stress. In fact, last year, 85 percent of college students reported feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities and approximately half of students said they have experienced incapacitating levels of stress. For some students, these feelings can be a big motivator for excessive drinking. National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness week is a good time to re-circulate information on healthy coping mechanisms for stress and remind students of the mental health resources that are available to them on campus.