Parents... High School Students... make the most of your campus visit!
The culture of drinking on a campus will have a direct influence on the quality of life for all the students of that college or university. Many of the negative consequences associated with college drinking affect not only the students who drink but also the students who do not drink. These “second-hand binge effects” include a number of serious consequences, such as sexual assault, violence, vandalism, loss of sleep, and even the possibility of having to care for friends and roommates in life-threatening states of alcohol poisoning. Visiting a potential campus is the best way to get a true feel for the campus environment. However, taking the tour conducted by the Admissions Office simply scratches the surface. Look beyond the tour, and you may find many other clues about the drinking climate.
When visiting a campus, arrange appointments with as many of the Key Personnel as possible. Scheduling meetings may be difficult, but even if you can get in for only fifteen minutes or a half hour it will be worth the effort.
More often than not, the staff involved in the Student Life Office (also identified as Student Affairs, Student Development, and so on), which is responsible for all non-academic aspects of student life, has a better sense of alcohol issues than staff from the academic side of the campus, in particular the faculty. Through its various component offices, Student Life manages safety services for the campus community, conducts enriching learning and leadership experiences that promote personal responsibility and growth, offers support resources for students, and provides opportunities for recreation and entertainment.
Schools that take alcohol abuse seriously are willing to talk about it. As you talk with the various key personnel and other campus representatives, consider the following:
In addition to asking the key personnel some of the Key Questions, keep these tips in mind:
As you tour the campus both with and without a tour guide, consider the following:
Key Personnel to Interview
Vice President for Student Life: The chief administrator in charge of Student Life issues on the campus, including residence life, judicial matters, student activities, and alcohol issues.
Dean of Students: Handles many of the day-to-day problems that arise on the campus, in particular alcohol-related judicial matters.
Admissions Counselor: Tends to be the salesperson for the campus, traveling around the country selling the campus at college admissions fairs and/or visiting prospective students and their families.
Admissions Director: Coordinates decisions regarding acceptance of students. S/he helps ensure the campus is the right match for your child. Keep in mind that this person faces the challenge of ensuring the right match while also meeting a number of different campus quotas in terms of financial aid, scholarships, work-study, diversity, and athletics.
Judicial Officer: Handles all violations of campus policies, including the alcohol policy.
Director of Campus Police: Responsible for campus safety and security. Because of the nature of their positions and the fact that they deal primarily with policy offenders, Campus Police and the Judicial Officer tend to have a tainted view of alcohol issues.
Coordinator of Health Education (Wellness Coordinator, Health Educator): Tends to have the most realistic view of the alcohol and other drug situation on the campus. The Coordinator conducts health-related educational programs for the campus.
Students: May provide the best understanding of the alcohol situation on their campus. However, be careful. A heavy drinker probably hangs out with other heavy drinkers, resulting in the view that “everyone drinks.” Speak with students who drink as well as those who do not.
Faculty and academic deans: Tend to have a very limited understanding of the day-to-day challenges that students face beyond the classrooms.
Important Questions to Ask
Residence Hall Policies
Social Norms Program
Visiting the Athletic Department
If your son or daughter will be participating in a college sport, be sure to visit the athletic department. If possible, meet with the Athletic Director and/or coach to discuss not only sports-related issues, but also the team policy regarding alcohol consumption. Talk with some of the players and casually include a question about drinking.
If your student will be visiting the campus on his or her own as a guest of the athletic department, inquire about the visitation policies.