Sober or Somber...How Alcohol Can Affect Your Student
From assaults to vandalism to unsafe sex to possible injury and/or death, the statistics concerning college students and alcohol are a somber reminder that ongoing education is important to safeguarding students.
While parent expectations and reactions about alcohol use can run the gamut from passive acceptance to concerted efforts at reinforcing a no-drinking mindset among their students, uncertainty still exists in knowing how to foster student independence while encouraging responsible decision making.
The law and institutional policies clearly define age appropriateness and other factors. However, students and even parents can be swayed by influences such as peer pressure, societal acceptance of alcohol and bars for social purposes, and a misconception that drinking can be a rite of passage for young adults.
Defining the Dangers
A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges is a report issued by the Federal Task Force of the National Advisory on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Published in 2002, it includes recently updated statistics that highlight the dangers facing college students ages 18-24:
- Injury/Death: Nearly 600,000 students are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol and 1,700 students die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including vehicle crashes, each year.
- Assault: Each year nearly 700,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
- Sexual Abuse: Approximately 97,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape each year.
- Unsafe Sex: On an annual basis, about 400,000 students have unprotected sex and over 100,000 students said they were too intoxicated to know if they consented.
- Academic Problems: One-fourth of the students reported academic concerns that resulted from their drinking.
Partnering to Protect Students
BW has policies that prohibit irresponsible and illegal drug/alcohol use. Students who violate the policies can be subjected to legal as well as BW-instituted consequences. In order to curb potential drinking opportunities, campus groups sponsor events aimed at encouraging student fun without substance use.
CARE (Center for Alcohol & Related Issues Education) is a BW program that promotes educational and social activities that encourage the health and well being of students.
One activity is Mid-Night Madness, a student-run organization that sponsors free weekly non-alcoholic social events on Thursday evenings. It includes recreational activities, contests, entertainment, free food, prizes and more. Other student organizations encouraging alcohol and drug-free choices include Certified Peer Educators and Greeks Advocating Mature Management of Alcohol.
Likewise, parents should encourage responsible decision making by initiating ongoing discussion and keeping the lines of communication open with regard to alcohol. First-year students, in particular, face numerous freedoms and temptations that can catch even the most cautious students off guard.
While parents cannot know for sure if their students are being responsible, the following guidelines encourage parent-student discussions focused on building respect and trust.
- Remind your student that underage alcohol consumption and driving after drinking are illegal and prohibited by BW policies.
- Encourage avoidance of social gatherings focused on underage drinking.
- Explain the importance of intervention when situations warrant attention. Your student may prevent a death, injury and/or assault.
- Notice changes in your student that might signal he/she is having issues with alcohol.
- Ask about your student's social life and how he/she spends free time.
- Suggest involvement in co-curricular activities.
- Model your own positive behavior with regard to alcohol use.