Ninety percent of students have already used alcohol and marijuana before arriving at the University and 42.8 percent of college students surveyed in 1991 had had five or more drinks in one sitting in the past two weeks, according to Caesar M. Briefer, director of University Health Service. Briefer addressed issues surrounding alcohol use and abuse on campus at the April Regents meeting.
Student affairs professionals, Briefer said, say alcohol use contributes to:
—70 percent of violent behavior on campus.
—41 percent of academic failure.
—44 percent of emotional difficulties.
—68 percent of damage in residence halls.
—60 percent of campus policy violations.
—28 percent of student attrition.
“Those are sobering statistics,” Briefer noted. The University fulfills its obligation under federal law in providing counseling services for students concerned about alcohol use and abuse, but, he said, more needs to be done.
Health Service currently focuses its efforts on education through peer education programs. “However,” Briefer noted, “we sometimes feel as though we are preaching to the choir.”
Two years ago, he said, a “curriculum infusion” program primarily for first-year students was added to psychology courses. That has been successful enough that “we are no longer able to meet demands,” and he is working with the School of Social Work to use interns.
From the student view
To give the Regents a sense of the issues surrounding alcohol use and abuse that affect students, the interactive student theater troupe Talk to Us performed a short sketch and a monologue.
Launched in 1987, the group’s performances—strongly based on the realities of students’ experiences— are designed to promote direct involvement of the audience with the issues raised in the sketches.
The troupe’s programs “are a vehicle to get students to discuss important issues in their lives,” said Ramona Piracha, troupe director. “We don’t pretend to have the answers. We help them talk to each other.”
The group has a repertoire of approximately 100 sketches and next year plans to focus on reaching more minority students.
Talk to Us has appeared before audiences numbering as many as 600 persons and is recognized as a national model at student affairs conferences.