Presidents from nearby universities discuss substance abuse on campuses

By Ally Tobler

The Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy hosted a panel discussion in Stamp Oct. 17, where speakers came together to discuss ways in which universities can help prevent substance use.

The discussion featured university presidents Gregory Crawford of Miami University of Ohio; Martin Meehan of University of Massachusetts; Wayne A.I. Frederick of Howard University; Kim Schatzel of Towson University and Tom Sullivan of University of Vermont.

The event also included a discussion of trends, challenges, and innovations in substance use prevention and treatment by Dr. Jason Kilmer, associate professor of psychiatry, as well as an expert panel.

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Audience members listen to panelists discuss causes and solutions to the problem of substance use on college campuses. Photo by Ally Tobler

Substance use — a phrase that encompasses not only the consumption of marijuana and hard drugs, but alcohol intake as well — is prevalent on college campuses across the nation. University presidents explained their understanding as to why substance use occurs among college students, emphasizing that these problem are not necessarily related to mental health issues alone.

Howard University is a “dry campus,” meaning alcohol is banned on school property, regardless of age. But Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick does not necessarily believe that this method works to prevent alcohol use.

“Kids model behavior that they see. But I do think that students on our campus see certain behaviors that they will model,” Frederick said. “Some people will say that having a dry campus creates a taboo and it makes them go after [alcohol and other substances], and therefore what we need to do is to let them know what appropriate use is.”

Moderator and NASPA President Kevin Kruger agreed on this notion, adding that college events that endorse drinking could be a contributing factor to substance use.

“I think that campuses with Division I, top ten football teams struggle with this,” Kruger said. “[Students] see alumni hanging out and getting intoxicated at campus events. Sports is a big part of campus culture, so in that sense in particular I think that’s challenging.”

Students struggling with substance abuse will need help regardless of their reasoning for doing so, Frederick said, adding that one year he recalls that “11 percent of students had gone to the counseling center because they were having difficulty coping” with mental health issues.

“If you think about how stigmatized mental health is in the African American community, that’s a huge number when you also consider how many people didn’t go to the counseling center because they were apprehensive,” he said. “You don’t want an institution where drug problems and mental health problems are overlooked.”

The various universities already employ methods to reduce substance use, such having substance-free residence halls. University of Miami President Gregory Crawford said the school’s “Late Night Miami” program hosts events each night for students who don’t want to engage in drinking.

But the discussion also leaned toward what schools can do differently to prevent and treat substance abuse moving forward.

“We have to get parents involved in these mental health and abuse practices, because without the parents fully understanding, I don’t think we can be successful,” Sullivan said.

University of Massachusetts President Martin Meehan said paying attention to individual scenarios will help universities diminish substance abuse for the long haul.

“We need to deal with it as a case-by-case basis,” Meehan said.

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Audience member Sharon Webber speaks up. Photo by Ally Tobler

Some students at the University of Maryland may not necessarily think substance use on this campus is different from any other college.

Sophomore journalism and government and politics major Hannah Dalsheim believes more can be done to prevent substance use, namely, alcohol consumption.

“I think the school could better promote sober events on campus. Right now, advertising for them isn’t great,” Dalsheim said.

Terps For Recovery is collegiate recovery on campus at UMD which seeks to provide a safe space for people who are either in recovery for any sort of addiction, whether it’s self-harm, alcohol or drugs.

The organization holds weekly meetings on Mondays at noon at the Drop-In Center on the ground floor of the University Health Center. If you wish to join the group or have any other questions, email terpsforrecovery@gmail.com.

The University Health Center has a Substance Use Intervention & Treatment Unit, which provides services including substance use and co-occurring disorders counseling, drug testing and consultation with concerned family members.

 

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