Live Responsibly

Oct. 22, 2008

SMU IMPLEMENTS RECOMMENDATIONS FROM TASK FORCE ON SUBSTANCE ABUSE PREVENTION

DALLAS (SMU) – More than a dozen recommendations made by the SMU Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention, including policies aimed to produce a higher level of personal and peer responsibility, have been implemented by the University since April. Efforts to implement other recommendations are in progress.

“Substance abuse is a complex and serious problem nationwide that requires a focused commitment and continual vigilance,” SMU President R. Gerald Turner said when announcing the creation of the Task Force in June 2007. “The considerable benefits of an SMU education should be enjoyed without the destructive influence of illegal and dangerous lifestyle habits. Prevention requires a partnership involving the institution, parents and students themselves, as well as external law enforcement agencies and community leadership. All of us must do more, and more often, to make an impact.”

The new initiatives, which join other longstanding University programs aimed at education, prevention, and assistance, are intended to strengthen the academic and student life culture, said SMU Vice President for Student Affairs Lori White. “These initiatives are helping build an academic community where achievement remains a high priority and in which students are encouraged to look out for themselves and one another. We want them to make the best use of the resources, programs and assistance this University has to offer,” she said.

Highlights of the new initiatives include:

  • The Dean of Students Caring Community Connections program – This extension of the Dean of Students Office is an online process for gathering and acting upon reports of students showing signs of distress, giving campus officials and faculty members a central database to report concerns. The Dean of Students reviews the information for immediate follow-up on urgent matters or other appropriate action for non-urgent situations.
     
  • The Call for Help Program – Students who seek medical assistance for themselves (Medical Amnesty) or for another person (Good Samaritan) due to intoxication by alcohol and/or drugs will now not normally be subject to the discipline process at SMU but will be eligible for drug and alcohol abuse counseling. (Exemption from the discipline process is related only to alcohol and drug policies.) This program is designed to encourage students to obtain medical assistance when drug or alcohol abuse is life threatening.
     
  • Social Event Registration – This new protocol requires student organizations to register most on-campus and off-campus events through the University’s Office of Student Life. For events expecting more than 100 guests, serving alcohol, or using buses for transportation, the event organizers also are required to meet with the University’s Social Event Registration Committee before the event.
     
  • Law-Enforcement Partnership – SMU has strengthened the partnership between its Police Department and the City of University Park Police Department. SMU is collaborating with University Park Police to share a police officer on the North Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, which consists of area police departments and federal agencies that collect information on drug use, trafficking and trends affecting this region.
     
  • Parental Notification – A first offense for a substance-abuse or alcohol violation will result in prompt parental notification. Previously, parental notification typically occurred only after a student was placed on disciplinary probation for an alcohol or substance-abuse violation.
     
  •  Late-Night Options – The University expanded the hours, services and activities of the Hughes-Trigg Student Center, which now is open Sunday-Wednesday until midnight and Thursday-Saturday until 2 a.m. In addition, the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports has extended hours until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. A Late Night Programming Grant Fund has been established to help support evening on-campus events.
     
  •  Extended Health Center Hours and Services – Beginning Oct. 2, the SMU Health Center is open overnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. These hours are in addition to the regular and new extended daytime Health Center hours. A paramedic and an emergency medical technician are at the Center during the new night hours. In addition, a mobile intensive care unit is available at the Center on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to provide immediate transport to area hospitals if needed. These new hours and services apply to students seeking medical attention for any reason and are available whenever school is in session during the fall and spring semesters.
     
  •  AlcoholEdu – By the second week of the fall semester, 1,293 first-year students had started a newly required online alcohol education program. The University also added a new parent/student interactive session on substance-abuse awareness to its orientation program.
     
  •  Responsible Bar Ownership – A group of campus officials and representatives of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission meet with local bar owners to address issues of under-age drinking and marketing activities that promote excessive behavior.
     
  •  President’s Commission on Substance Abuse Prevention – Established to monitor progress and continually review programs and policies, the Commission includes representatives of numerous campus offices and organizations, from Student Affairs and SMU Police to the Office of the Provost and Campus Ministries.
     
  •  Community Partnerships – The University is now part of ALOUD (Alliance on Underage Drinking), which includes representatives from the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission, the Dallas Police Department, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at Dallas, local hospitals and other nonprofit agencies.
     
  •  FERPA – SMU clarified regulations related to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and developed a student-parent friendly Web site for authorizing release of FERPA information.
     
  •  Academic Changes -- SMU also has implemented several academic recommendations, including scheduling more Friday classes, encouraging faculty to take attendance in class and asking faculty to help identify students at risk.

Another update includes revisions to the Student Code of Conduct, including changing the name of the Office of Judicial Affairs to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards.

White said that while wise student choices are the ultimate protection against substance abuse, SMU is committed to a proactive approach. Substance-abuse prevention information and resources will be communicated regularly through University Web sites and printed materials for students and their parents.

“We are dedicated to providing a campus environment that encourages good decision-making, responsible behavior and personal and intellectual growth,” White said. “These new programs and policies are a foundation for that growth.”

SMU students and their parents can access more information about substance abuse resources, counseling services and risk factors at http://smu.edu/smunews/liveresponsibly/.

The SMU Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention

On June 11, 2007, SMU President R. Gerald Turner appointed the Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention to examine the University’s programs focused on education, prevention, enforcement and assistance related to drug and alcohol abuse.

Composed of faculty members, staff, students, and a trustee who is also an SMU parent, the Task Force was chaired by then-Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Life Dee Siscoe and Associate Provost Tom Tunks. It reported its recommendations to President Turner in December 2007.

The Task Force represented an effort “to keep our programs up to date with best practices and procedures,” Turner said. Although the University has for several years offered comprehensive programs of drug and alcohol education, “we are re-examining everything out of deep concern for the recent tragic deaths of three students in the past year,” he said.

In addition to reviewing existing programs for possible updates or enhancements, the Task Force reviewed University policies and practices that had an impact on student behavior outside of class, such as academic scheduling, attendance policies, and regulations governing campus and Greek housing. The Task Force also considered the broader context of external forces that influence student behavior, such as habits developed pre-college, social norms, the surrounding environs and national trends in substance abuse.

Previously Existing Programs

A range of related programs were in place before the implementation of the Task Force recommendations. As outlined below, SMU offers extensive programs and resources offered to new and continuing students. These include discussions, films, online resources, required wellness courses, counseling, assessments, peer intervention and special training for leaders in residence halls and Greek houses, as well as faculty and staff. In addition, SMU enforces its Student Code of Conduct and residence hall guidelines through its judicial system, and those with drug policy violations are subject to drug testing. The SMU Police Department enforces the laws regarding alcohol and drug use, as do police departments in nearby University Park, Highland Park and the city of Dallas if violations occur in those jurisdictions.

SMU Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention – The SMU Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention provides awareness and training programs, assessments, counseling, interventions and referrals. Its mission includes promoting activities and programs with student support to focus campus attention on alcohol and drug abuse. The Center has hired a full-time health educator, who joins two full-time licensed counselors on staff. Following are programs and resources offered by the Center:

Education and Campus Awareness – The Center offers education about alcohol and other drugs, chemical dependency and substance abuse, including orientation programs to incoming students and their parents during July and August. The programs include:

  • The award-winning film Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, which was produced after the alcohol-related death of an MIT freshman in 1997. A new DVD addressing substance abuse issues was created and shown during SMU orientation. Parents receive a copy of “What Parents Should Know About Alcohol and Drugs on Campus” and receive a list of campus health resources from the SMU parent liaison.
     
  • The “Social Norms Campaign,” in partnership with the SMU Temerlin Advertising Institute, focuses on correcting student misperceptions about alcohol and drugs.
     
  • The Temerlin Advertising Student Group created an awareness campaign addressing substance abuse issues. Two additional advertising classes will work this fall on a campaign among students.
     
  • Wellness Choices I courses, required for all first-year students, address alcohol and drug abuse prevention each semester.
     
  • A program on Healthy Habits addresses the topics of nutrition and alcohol.
     
  • Student Health 101, an online newsletter, is sent monthly to students.
     
  • SMU will participate in the National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week in October.

Training and Peer Educators – The Center trains students, residential assistants, faculty and staff to help others who may have a substance abuse or dependency problem. Residential Assistant training hours on the topic of drug and alcohol education more than doubled for the 2007-2008 academic year. The programs include:

  • A revamped Peer Education Program.
     
  • The hiring of a new health educator to work with students and organizations.
     
  • TIPS Training (Training for Intervention Procedures, by Health Communications Inc.) All campus ministers, RAs and many Student Affairs staff were trained this summer. Training for Greek leadership began in the spring of 2007 and continues throughout this year.
     
  • Because I Care, a drug-specific program the Center piloted last spring and launched this fall to teach students the information and skills they need to intervene with peers who are using drugs. All campus ministers, RAs and many Student Affairs staff were trained this summer. Training for Greek leadership was piloted during spring 2007 and will continue throughout this year.

Assessment and Intervention – By working with friends, family, faculty and staff, the Center assesses student problems with alcohol and other drugs and provides access to appropriate help, including online screening programs such as E-Chug and E-Toke and on-campus substance abuse prevention classes.

Counseling, Referrals and Support – The Center provides short-term counseling to students on substance-abuse issues and offers referrals for outside support and treatment when necessary. It supports self-help groups on campus and in the community, including Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step groups, and works with recovering students on relapse prevention and on re-entry to college after treatment.

The SMU Center was one of eight nationally to be recognized for excellence in alcohol education programming from Outside the Classroom, the developer of an online prevention program used on more than 450 college campuses around the country.

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SMU News & Communications, 214-768-7650, smunews@smu.edu