Faculty members and other university employees can also plan critical roles in helping a student recognize an alcohol/drug problem and connect with helping services.
- Communicate high expectations for students in the areas such as class attendance, work-study job performance, co-curricular committee work, resident hall behaviors, and academic performance.
- Enforce standards and policies. Intervene if a student is missing too many classes, not turning in assignments, coming late to a work-study job, or talking about heavy-duty partying. Know that it is not okay for students to report to work-study jobs, academic classes, or other educational activities under the influence of non-prescribed, mood-altering drugs, including alcohol. Report violations of the campus alcohol and drug campus policy to the vice president of student development.
- Allow the student to experience consequences in response to inappropriate behavior, frequent absences, missed assignments, disruptive behavior or drunken disturbances.
- Refer students. If you work with a student who demonstrates a pattern of problematic symptoms (e.g., missing class or work, excessive fatigue, incomplete assignments, sporadic academic or work performance, depressive affect), encourage that student to see the campus counselor.
- Talk to a student if you have concerns. Such conversations are not always easy or comfortable (and it’s okay to say that to the student), but they are important. While human communication is too complicated for a simple formula, the following outline is often suggested for such conversations:
- Tell the student you care,
- Describe specific behaviors you are concerned about,
- Suggest that alcohol/drug use or other troubling issues are often associated with such behaviors, and
- Offer to help connect the student to the campus counselor so the student can explore the issues contributing to his or behaviors.
- Use campus resources. If you’re not sure about what to do, call the counselor for suggestions about how to approach a student or call the vice president of student development to clarify policies.
- Use community resources. Self-help groups—AA, NA, and Alanon—are available throughout our community. Information is available at Great Rivers Information and Referral (Ext. 211) or Coulee Council on Alcohol (784-4177). Local hospitals and mental health clinics offer assessment services, treatment programs, and information. Check the yellow pages under “Alcoholism Information and Treatment Centers” for specific agencies.
- Know that the helping process is incremental. A student may seem to ignore or resent what you say or ask about his or her drinking. However, your comments might make it easier for the student to really hear similar comments from a work- study supervisor a few months from now. In turn, the comments made by the work- study supervisor might make it easier for the student to reflect objectively about some legal trouble involving alcohol six months in the future. Finally, the impact of all these interventions might lead the student to seek help in response to comments from a professor a year from now. Expressions of concern are seldom wasted, even if evidence of positive results isn’t observed immediately.
- Don’t expect magic or quick fixes. Alcohol and other drug problems are complex. Real change involves cultural change and that takes time. Individual readiness to change is sometimes at a lower level than we’d hope. These facts do not, however, excuse apathy. Given the devastating effects of alcohol and other drug abuse on learning and on college students, everyone has a real opportunity and obligation to take the initial steps required for change.