Faculty tackles high-risk drinking on campus


By Jason Estrada

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The University of Iowa Faculty Senate provided an update on the 2016-2019 Alcohol Harm Reduction Plan on Tuesday.
The plan was developed to address high-risk drinking, a “serious public health issue on every college campus across the county,” according to the plan.

Susan Assouline, a UI professor and the director of the Belin-Blank Center, said the Senate wanted to provide an update about the third version of the 2016-2019 Alcohol Harm Reduction Plan.

“The only way for us to reach an impact is by increasing awareness,” she said.

The Senate passed out copies of the plan for everyone and wanted each faculty member to keep it where students could see it, like in their office.

The Alcohol Harm Reduction Advisory Committee accomplished significant improvements from 2009 to 2015 in many aspects of drinking. These accomplishments ranged from percentage of students engaged in high-risk drinking in the past two weeks, average number of drinks per occasion, and percent of students drinking 10 or more days per month.

Tanya Villhauer, the associate director for Student Wellness & Harm Reduction Initiatives, provided long-term trends regarding the students’ use of alcohol at the UI.

“Probably one of the things for our whole campus to understand is perceptions versus the reality,” she said. “And this is something that we need to be all aware of.”

Villhauer said students believe two-thirds of their peers drink alcohol, but really only fewer than a quarter of peers actually drink.

With that understanding, she said, there will be good conversations and appropriate messages on these issues.

Although there is a significant decrease in students drinking, there is still a 51 percent rate of students who participate in high-risk drinking. Villhauer said there is a lot of work yet to accomplish.

An important goal the plan seeks is to help students succeed and to fulfill their goals and dreams.

“Less than 60 percent of students say they have had at least one negative consequence from alcohol last year,” she said.

To reduce these consequences, Villhauer said, students should change their outcomes from drinking such as being with “stable” friends or having a designated driver.

For academic issues, the top impediments for student’s learning were stress, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and depression.

“The top three [impediments] pretty much stay the same every year,” she said. “Which is pretty common in a college setting.”

However, at the bottom of the chart, alcohol use ranked at No. 7 as a learning impediment. Villhauer said she knows students are now starting to understand how the use of alcohol is connected not only to their academics, but in different ways as well.

Resmiye Oral, a clinical professor of pediatrics and director of the Child Protection Program, said she appreciated the committee’s plan and believed it was phenomenal. She  said she wondered if there is a mental-health advisory council with dedicated staff members that are designated to dealing with mental health issues.

“Is there a mental-health advisory council on our campus with a dedicated staff like you bringing together all state folders, so that we can work on this as well without diminishing this work which is extremely important,” she asked.

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