University Life Committee
Roberts, Joseph (Senator, FCAS-Social Science, Chair)
Celik, B. Gokhan (SECCM)
Coon, Julie (SJS)
Gleason, Thomas (Student Senate President)
Hawkes, Catherine (FCAS-Humanities)
Nester, Nancy (Senator-at large, FCAS-Humanities)
Ozer, Koray (FCAS-Math)
Rossi, Lauren (FCAS-MNS)
Thomas, Charles (SECCM)
Webb, Paul (Senator, FCAS-MNS)
Yonan, Scott (Student Affairs)
Katherine McMahon (Dean of Students), Jen Stanley (Director of Residence Life/Women’s Center), Tony Montefusco (Director of Housing), and Heidi Hartzel (Director of Student Conduct & Community Standards)
Alcohol Issues on Campus
The ULC welcomed guests from student affairs to discuss the “living conditions” of the freshman dorms with respect to partying, noise, and alcohol use” based on an email received from a member of the faculty. What follows is a summary of the information and discussion about this issue.
Student affairs recognizes that the problem has two competing dimensions: the problem of the alcohol culture on retention and the fact that many students complain about policies being too draconian.
Jen Stanley and Tony Montefusco discussed the staffing for residence halls. This includes 89 trained resident assistants (students), core professional staff in each hall, and the central staff of residential life and student affairs. Each hall has quiet hours that are defined by the university and then modified by vote of residents. There are also living-learning communities (LLCs) both standard (including Aquaculture, Healthy-U, Law and Order, Peace, Building & Design, Honors, Reaching New Heights) and self-proposed (seventeen proposed for the 2011-2012). The self-proposed LLCs have a theme and a mentor. Faculty are encouraged to get involved with this program either around majors or other themes. Another option available is to create an LLC around specific courses. This program is currently being developed through Doug Koritz’s office. LLCs include some additional resources beyond the typical RA budget.
Heidi Hartzel discussed the need for more faculty involvement in the University Disciplinary Committee. The model is a restorative justice model where the effort is to restore balance when others are harmed by actions. The committee received the RWU Code of Conduct and the RWU Alcohol and Drug Sanction Sheet that outlines the sanctions for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd offenses. Data was presented about student behavior. Some interesting findings for 2009-2010: 518 alcohol violations (out of 914 documentations) representing 443 1st offenses, 65 2nd offenses, and 10 3rd offenses. Sanctions included 846 educational sanctions (including 470 service hours) and 575 parental notifications. Faculty are encouraged to contact student services if they notice changes in student behavior or have concerns about students.
Kathleen McMahon discussed the environmental strategies approach meaning that the environment and the substances both contribute to risk for students. As a result of a plan that began 5 years ago, there have been significant changes at RWU at a policy level and there are mixed results in the statistics about alcohol use at RWU. For driving after/while drinking, blackouts, or hangovers, RWU students are almost even with national averages. However, for experiencing negative academic consequences, RWU students are 12% below the national average. Obviously, facutly can have a significant impact here. The surveys that RWU has done suggest that the three biggest contributers to student drinking culture at RWU are academic stress/work load (that they are not stressed), free time/boredom, and social/peer pressure. These can also be significantly impacted by faculty involvement. The impact of drinking on academics is significant. Research has suggested that students with an A average consume 3.3 drinks or fewer/week while students with a D average consume 9.0 drinks per week. Among high risk drinkers, more than half self report missing class due to drinking. Faculty are encouraged to take the following steps (as appropriate):
- Incorporate studies of alcohol use and consequences in coursework
- Conduct joint research with the alcohol prevention staff
- Support student internship and practicum efforts
- Schedule quizzes and exams (or other assessments) on Friday mornings
- Take attendance in class
- Scheduling classes on MWF blocks is important
- Discontinue language that supports drinking as normative
- Discontinue actions that signal acceptance of alcohol use (e.g., drinking with students)
- Report concerns to student affairs or advocacy office
- Join the RWU Alcohol Task Force (Chaired by Kathleen McMahon and Jim Azar)
The ULC would like to thank the Office of Student Affairs for helping us understand the complex issues surrounding alcohol use on campus and the role that faculty can play in helping to address this issue. We had an excellent two-way dialog that we hope was mutually beneficial.