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:
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:
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:
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.