As I've mentioned before, NWU has a special first year program (as do a good many other schools). In our case, we sign up for (usually) one of our classes, in English, almost always the first year writing class, to be a Special Programs Class (SPC).
When we participate, we basically agree to try to foster the goals of the SPC program, which are basically:
introduce students to the idea of a liberal arts education
enhance students' academic skills
enhance students' connection to the university
participate in meaningful academic and non-academic out-of-class activities
encourage students to take responsibility for their education
All of these are goals I can easily get behind, seriously. While some are probably obvious (doesn't every class seek to enhance students' academic skills?), the out-of-class activities one might not be. In my classes, this means students have to attend and write about the campus art gallery, a live performance, a lecture or academic talk, and at least two meetings of campus organizations. They have choices for all these activities, so they can work them in over the semester, do what interests them, and so forth. Few of my students have ever been to an art gallery, live theater, or a lecture, so they get a bit of a taste of some of the things that make a college community really wonderful.
Anyway, today I got the usual beginning of the acadmic year information about the SPC workshop we're supposed to attend. Does the workshop try to help us address the goals we're all supposed to be working towards in common? Do we talk about activities or assignments that might help us accomplish our goals? That would make sense, wouldn't it? It would help me a lot!
But no, in my experience, mostly these workshops try to convince the faculty that we're responsible for educating our students about alcohol awareness.
Yes, alcohol abuse is a serious problem, for students and everyone else in this state (seriously, the statistics are dismal). But...
First, my class isn't the place for anti-alcohol education. I'm not qualified to teach people not to drink. I'm qualified to teach English lit and writing. And it's hard enough to teach writing in the time we have in this class. What should I give up to teach alcohol awareness? And who's going to really teach me about alcoholism and such, because if I'm supposed to do another PhD in counseling to do this, it's going to be a cold day in hell.
Second, every student on our campus is aware of alcohol. They've been told every year since they were very young that smoking and drinking alcohol are bad. BAD. B. A. D. They've also been told that all drugs will make you instantly addicted. And yet, the whole state has a drinking problem, so something about this educational message isn't getting through. People also smoke, use recreational chemicals, and have unsafe sex.
At any rate, I doubt that hearing me tell them not to drink would have much effect.
Our more senior students have little good to say about the alcohol awareness campaign that's been going on for years now. They don't respect it, though they do express respect for the SPC program and the class they took through it. Yet by and large, our more senior students drink less than our first and second year students. So things do change (population? practices? some combination?)
And third, those goals above, see how none of them says anything about alcohol awareness? You know, every so often all the assessment driven focus on goals and meeting objectives really does serve a purpose!
And yet, I do know that alcohol abuse is a problem on our campus, that most rapes involving our students involve alcohol (though too often that fact gets cast as the victim's fault, because she was drinking so someone could take advantage of her).
What would effective alcohol abuse prevention look like?
Where would it happen?
Who'd teach it?
I don't have the answers to those questions; if I did, I'd make millions very fast off the college anti-alcohol industry!
What works on your campus? Who's responsible?