Because of their regular contact with students, faculty and staff are often among the first to notice that a student is having personal problems. While you are not expected to take on the role of counselor, you may be well positioned to connect a student to available help.
It is not a secret that excessive alcohol use often results in negative social, academic, health, and legal consequences for students at UW-Eau Claire, across the state of Wisconsin, and nationally. We have all heard stories of the devastating student losses involving alcohol use. In addition to these tragedies, students deal with less severe, but still damaging consequences of alcohol abuse far too often.
A few fast facts about alcohol use at UW-Eau Claire
Data from 2013 CORE survey
- 73% of students report using alcohol in the past 30 days
- 49% of students report binge drinking in the past 2 weeks
- 49% of students say other students' drinking interferes with their lives in ways like interrupting study, making them feel unsafe, or messing up their physical living space
- 28% report missing a class due to drinking
- 17% report performing poorly in class due to alcohol use
- 6% of students think they may have a drinking problem
Faculty and staff are in a unique position to help with campus efforts to reduce high-risk drinking and its negative consequences. The information lists both general and specific ways in which your positive impact can be felt, but please feel free to contact us if you have a question that is not sufficiently addressed here.
Warning signs of a potential problem with alcohol or drugs
- Deterioration in work/academic performance, including being late to class and with assignments, absences or requests for extensions.
- Recurring substance-related legal problems, including trouble with campus authorities.
- Continued use despite ongoing interpersonal problems that are caused or worsened by drinking.
- Mood changes such as temper flare-ups, irritability and defensiveness.
- Physical or mental indicators such as memory lapses, lack of personal hygiene, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination or slurred speech.
- Disclosure, by a student, that there might be a drinking or drug problem.
- Multiple signs and a pattern (versus a single episode) make it more likely that there is a significant problem.
How to help a student
Communicating with the student is the first step. Before you talk with the student, consult with a professional from counseling services for guidelines on how to intervene. When you are ready, pick a time to talk to the student privately when neither of you is rushed.
- Express your care and concern: "I'm concerned about you."
- Describe in specific, nonjudgmental terms the behaviors or signs that concern you: "I'm concerned about you because I've noticed you haven't been to class in two weeks, and when you are here, you appear not to be focused."
- Make a referral for help: "Many students find that talking with a professional is helpful." Counseling Services offers alcohol assessment and counseling services, or you can also suggest that a student examines their use through resources including the online assessment eCheck-up-to-go or BASICS sessions offered through the Office of Health Promotion.
- Follow up to see how things are going.
How to help prevent alcohol and drug abuse
Understand how alcohol use impacts students
- Contact the Office of Health Promotion for information about alcohol use trends at UW-Eau Claire. See the links and resources pages for more information about alcohol use as it relates to college students.
Become familiar with the laws and campus policies about alcohol
Send a different message
- Encourage students to slow down and be safe. Instead of "Don't drink too much this weekend! (wink, wink)" say "Be safe," or "Watch out for each other."
- Talk about drinking statistics on campus that may surprise students. For example, students may drink less than other students may think.
- Remind students of the academic impact of heavy drinking.
- Be conscious of how you use your own undergraduate stories to connect with students.
- Encourage students to participate in the many activities on campus and in the community (e.g. join a student organization, attend University or local music and art events, engage in volunteer opportunities related to your subject).
Use the course syllabus or course expectations
- Require class participation and take attendance.
- Schedule quizzes and exams on Fridays.
- Make it clear that alcohol impairment in class is unacceptable.
Talk about the issue in class
- Rather than cancel class in your absence, invite Student Health Services staff or SWAT peer educators to conduct a presentation on alcohol issues.
- Incorporate information about alcohol issues into coursework or consider conducting a research project on this issue.
Make a referral
- If you notice a student is struggling with alcohol use or shows signs such as missing missed class, appearing drunk or hung over in class, shares high use information, refer that student to the Office of Health Promotion, Counseling Services, or the Dean of Students Office.
Support campus prevention efforts
- Participate in one of the committees that work to address this issue: the UW Eau Claire Alcohol Safety Task Force, the Bridge: Campus Community Coalition on Alcohol Issues for Eau Claire.
Lend your expertise
- Develop specific courses or projects on AOD issues.
- Conduct research on alcohol issues to inform campus programs or policy.
- Volunteer to assist with analysis and interpretation of alcohol use data (collected every year).