Why is this important?
Most students at Ohio University abide by the law and don’t get into trouble related to alcohol use. Most understand the risks involved in drinking (63% say that having 5 or more drinks in one night is dangerous) and most (70%) haven’t allowed alcohol use to interfere with their academic performance. Most Ohio University students (73%) drink 0 to 2 times per week. (Ohio University CORE Alcohol and Drug Survey).
According to Anderson (1994), alcohol use is a factor is 40% of all academic problems encountered by college and university students across the country. More critically, it is a factor in an estimated 28% of all dropouts. In some cases, students are hospitalized for alcohol poisoning or injuries sustained due to excessive alcohol consumption. In the most extreme cases, students die by overdose or from injuries sustained while intoxicated.
Inappropriate alcohol and other drug use can interfere with the teaching and learning process. Students who are dealing with their own alcohol or drug problems or those of friends and family may find it difficult to absorb new information, complete assignments, attend class, maintain focus, or even remain in school.
Faculty can assist students by getting involved in ways that are consistent with their role as faculty (Vogt, 1999). Research indicates that college students who have received kindly interventions by a faculty or staff member have lowered their own excessive alcohol use. Further, students who attend just a single counseling session reduce their own excessive alcohol and drug use.
Anderson, D. (1994). Breaking the tradition on college campuses: Reducing drug and alcohol misues. Fairfax, VA: George Mason University.
Vogt, P. (1999). Alcohol issues on campus. Garfield, NJ: Paperclip Communications.
Research on academics and alcohol
There is a growing body of research on the relationship between academic performance and alcohol use. Link here to an excerpt from an article by Wesley Perkins that summarizes the body of research. Included is a link to the original article, the complete citation, and references.
Identify and refer students
As someone who works directly with students on a daily basis, you are in a unique position to influence them in ways that extend beyond the curriculum. Understandably, faculty are often concerned about whether or not they should get involved in the lives of students outside the classroom. Faculty often feel that responding to students’ personal problems is outside their area of expertise. These are valid concerns and only the individual faculty member can decide whether or not to intervene when he or she is concerned about a potential personal problem of a student.
If a student’s drinking is causing a disruption to his or her health, academic performance or classroom relationships, there is cause for concern. Any one of the following indicators is unhealthy though their appearance does not automatically equate with an alcohol or drug problem. Several of them together in a student might cause you to consider approaching the student and perhaps making a referral to an appropriate resource on campus.
Signs and symptoms of problematic alcohol or drug use
• Missing class on a routine basis (nationally, 1/3 of students report missing class due to alcohol abuse)
• Chronically late for class
• Red eyes, unkempt appearance, “hung over,” smells of alcohol or marijuana
• Inconsistent performance on exams or in class
• Chronic failure to meet deadlines
• Claims of high tolerance for alcohol consumption; bragging about alcohol use
• Sleeping in class
• Irritable or overly argumentative
• Noticeable health problems, bruises, cuts; often sick
Steps to take
There are no absolutely correct procedures for dealing with student with an alcohol or drug problem. Each person has his or her own style of approaching and responding to others. Listed below are some suggestions of steps to take in interacting with a student for whom you are concerned.
• Initiate a conversation with the student. Ask questions in a non-threatening manner: How are you? What’s going on?
• Talk with the student in private to minimize any possible embarrassment.
• Describe specific behaviors that you have observed that have caused you to become concerned. It is most effective if you communicate with the student shortly after you have observed behavior that causes you to be concerned.
• Express your sincere concern about the student’s welfare.
• Listen carefully without providing advice or rushing in to help fix the problem.
• Be prepared for a negative response from the student.
• If the student begins to engage in conversation and shares the concerns you have raised, be prepared to refer the student to an appropriate resource.
• Reinforce the person for confiding in you (if he or she has).
Making a Referral
If you have determined that a student may benefit from professional counseling, it is typically helpful to talk with the student in a direct manner that demonstrates your concern for the student. Again, reinforce the person for confiding in you, acknowledge their concern, and suggest that they may benefit from talking to someone who is trained to help students who are having difficulties.
• Suggest to the student that he or she may benefit from talking with someone trained to help.
• Tell the student about the services available to them at Counseling and Psychological Services.
• Offer to call Counseling and Psychological Services for the student while they are in your office.
• If a student is skeptical about seeking help, express your acceptance of those feelings.
• If a student is resistant to seeing a counselor (as is sometimes the case), a second option is to refer him or her to a health educator at Health Promotion.
• Encourage the student to be open to reconsidering counseling at a later time.
Counseling and Psychological Services
Counseling and Psychological Services is located in Hudson Health Center on the 3rd floor, and the phone number is 593-1616. The department is open from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and its staff provides individual and group counseling. When a student calls, the receptionist will arrange for the student to meet with an individual counselor for the intake appointment as soon as possible. If the student appears to be in need of immediate help, the student may be seen the same day on an emergency basis. During this first intake session, the student will complete some information forms before meeting individually with a counselor. When meeting with the counselor, the student’s needs will be assessed, and it will be determined how the student can best be served in the department. All services are confidential by law. Currently enrolled students are eligible for all services free of charge for up to 13 sessions per academic year. Individual counseling is the primary service offered by the Center with services provided by a staff of licensed psychologists and supervised graduate interns.
Consultation is available
If you decide to help a student at risk, please be aware that staff members at Counseling and Psychological Services and at Health Promotion are available for consultation. Feel free to contact them to ask for assistance. Staff members can help with the following:
• Assessing the situation and its seriousness
• Identifying the best way to facilitate the student’s use of counseling services
• Clarifying your own concerns and feelings about the student
• Answering questions about how to effectively interact with the student
Contact information is listed at the end of this page.
CARDD, the Coalition Advocating Responsible Drinking Decisions, consists of approximately 60 students, faculty, staff and community members who work together to reduce high-risk drinking among Ohio University students. The entire coalition meets quarterly with each of six committees meeting more regularly. If you’d like to become involved in efforts to reduce high-risk drinking at Ohio University through CARDD, contact Terry Koons at the Office of Health Promotion, email@example.com, 593-4742.
Address alcohol in class
One of the most significant ways to impact student attitudes and behavior is to engage them in activities that contribute to their learning of course content while at the same time educating about the alcohol use. For example, students in a class on research methods could conduct campus-based research on an issue related to high-risk drinking. A public speaking class provides an opportunity for students to research and present speeches on various dimensions of alcohol-related problems. Students in a marketing class might develop strategies for promoting alcohol-free events and activities. Properly done, such a curriculum infusion improves the quality of the teaching and learning experience, and in no way diminishes the rigor with which one addresses course content.
Please don’t intentionally avoid giving quizzes or exams later in the week to accommodate what some students (a minority, by the way) consider to be “party” nights. Use the entire week to its fullest in order to maximize the learning experience of students. Your avoiding of tests on Fridays, for example, is taken by some students to affirm that their social life is more important than the curriculum. There are plenty of opportunities for students to have a well-rounded co-curricular and social experience on campus without carving into the academic schedule.
Invite experts to class
Professional staff and student peer educators (POWER) from Health Promotion can provide classroom presentations on a variety of topics related to alcohol and other drug use. If you need to be absent from a class for any reason, consider scheduling a presentation to occur in your absence. Topics can be customized to relate to course content and learning objectives.
Counseling and Psychological Services
337 Hudson Health Center
339 Baker University Center
Coalition Advocating Responsible Drinking Decisions (CARDD)
Health Education and Wellness
233 Hudson Health Center
For a list of local and campus meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous:
Health Recovery Services, Inc.
100 Hospital Drive
Athens, OH 45701