Keeping a closer eye on student imbibing

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SLU supports stronger student safety and prevention

It is no secret that the consumption of alcohol plays a role in the American college culture.  According to a study published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 84 percent of college students have consumed alcohol in the past year.

Saint Louis University is not immune from these measures. Since the beginning of Welcome Week on Aug. 24, 107 cases of alcohol-related violations have been reported by the Office of Student Conduct. According to Program Director of Student Conduct Katherine Weathers, the number of violations at this point in the semester is almost identical to the total in recent years over the same time period.

“I don’t think [alcohol abuse] at SLU is more prevalent than any other university. I don’t think SLU is unique in terms of number of reported alcohol incidents. Is drinking among college students a problem? Yes, but it’s a nationwide problem between students 18-24 years old from what data and research tell us,” Student Health Services counselor Meredith Osborn said.

Senior Parks College student Tyler Ruff believes that the intensity and frequency of drinking have declined over his years at SLU.

“I remember it was a lot more fun as a freshman,” Ruff said. “There was always a party somewhere. Now, SLU has cracked down on everything.”

Kevin Smith, a freshman College of Health Sciences student, thinks that SLU has achieved a good balance between students who choose to drink and those who do not.

“SLU seems to be somewhere in the middle. Some people do it, but it’s not surprising to meet a lot of people who don’t,” Smith said.

SLU has implemented programs to help students educate themselves about alcohol and protect them from alcohol abuse. The University offers programs through Student Health and Wellness in which counselors offer individual and group counseling to those struggling with an alcohol or substance abuse problem.

“I do a lot of assessments on addictions and dependency, whether it be with alcohol or drugs,” Osborn said. “We work to guide whoever needs our help into sobriety.”

The Alcohol Vision Team is a faculty and student group established to ensure a safe environment on campus and to reduce harmful outcomes stemming from drug and alcohol abuse.  The team consists of representatives from student development, Public Safety and Security Services and students from peer education groups such as the Student Health Advocates and Peer Educator Program (SHAPE).

The team has been working in conjunction with the St. Louis Police Department and owners of local bars to ensure a safe environment for students by encouraging that their employees participate in Training for Intervention Procedures to effectively manage the safety of their patrons.

“Bar owners have an investment in keeping the community safe in order to keep their business thriving. They don’t like when students trash their bar or when students get really intoxicated,” Osborn said.

Bilikens After Dark, a program directed towards students looking for social events  without the pressure of drinking alcohol.

“We try to do interactive, exciting and uncommon events. The goal is to create an event that’s not just recreating a party without alcohol,” program director Joel Hermann

Hermann sees the campus culture at SLU as one that focuses on achievement rather than partying.

“I think a lot of our students are more intelligent than they need to be, and they are aware of what can happen and the dangers of what that can happen [while drinking],” Hermann said.

The Office of Student Conduct also plays a prominent role in minimizing the risks associated with drinking on the college campus. Underage students can be cited for underage drinking and possessing a fake identification card, and students of legal drinking age can be cited for public intoxication and purchasing alcohol for minors.

“When you look at the code of conduct this year, you’ll see that it’s very different from past years. In the past we had one code of conduct violation for alcohol, and it was all-inclusive,” Weathers said.

Students cited for an alcohol violation can either accept responsibility for the incident and endure the appropriate sanctions or appeal the citation and go before the student conduct board for a hearing.

Students found in violation of the University’s alcohol policy are subject to fines, parental notification and, in certain cases, probation and additional sanctions contingent upon the individual situation. All cited students must attend a SLU Harm and Alcohol Reduction Program as well.

SHARP primarily focuses on educating students on how to reduce the potentially harmful effects of drinking. The program also educates students on the negative effects on the body and mind that alcohol can bring.

“Quite honestly, a lot of the time it tends to be freshmen in SHARP. Some of that education is really essential in terms of if this is their first time experimenting with alcohol, having freedom and excitement of college campus,” Osborn said.

SHARP classes offer practical knowledge to students regarding drinking, such as defining what one drink really is and teaching students how to control their intake.

“A lot don’t know what a standard drink is, or what’s in jungle juice. One cup is not one standard drink, and we have students who go down to the ER and they have no idea how they got that bad,” Osborn said.