July 8, 2013. The perils of high risk drinking and interpersonal violence are issues Appalachian State University student development professionals and others are addressing with incoming students, as well as the parents of students who will begin their college career this fall.
“We decided this spring that we must do something to change the culture of high risk drinking behaviors that impact students’ learning outcomes,” said Vice Chancellor for Student Development Cindy Wallace, speaking to Appalachian’s Board of Trustees on June 28. “We have examined every aspect of everything we do.”
In March, Wallace convened more than 125 people who participated in an alcohol summit that looked at students’ access to alcohol, educational programming, alcohol-free activities and policy and enforcement.
Formation of the alcohol summit followed the accidental death of a student who slipped, hit his head on a rock and lay unconscious in a stream after returning to campus from an evening out with friends. In addition, campus police, residence hall staff and others have seen an increase in underage drinking, and drinking that results in students being transported to the local medical center. In one case, a student had a blood alcohol level as high as .24. Blood alcohol content higher than .21 can result in loss of consciousness or even death.
Dean of Students J.J. Brown said high risk drinking and interpersonal violence go hand in hand, and are topics the university’s Interpersonal Violence Task Force also focused on during the past year.
“The two terms we use most with students and parents are prevention and education,” said Brown, who talks to parents about the impact high risk drinking can have on their student’s educational opportunities during parent/student orientation in May and June. The same information was shared with students attending orientation. “We want students and parents to be part of this conversation,” he said.
Brown and others also promote the university’s “It’s Up to Me” campaign which promotes the notion “If You See Something, Say Something.” Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to report individuals whom they suspect are at risk from drinking, harm to themselves, or are in a potentially violent situation.
This fall, the university will offer specific training that addresses ways to report at-risk behavior and provide information about university and community resources available to mitigate the behavior.
“People want to report, they want to intervene. They are just unsure how to do so,” Brown said.