Students at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota (SMU) consume less alcoholic drinks/week and less marijuana than their national peers (use reported in the last year: 27% Saint Mary’s compared to 33% nationally), according to the spring 2016 results of the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey.
The Core Alcohol and Drug Survey is a survey created by the Core Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; it’s used to measure student alcohol and drug behaviors. It is being used by many different universities, according to the Southern Connecticut State University’s website.
The survey was last conducted at SMU in 2012, and even in four short years the data shows a marked difference. For example, the students surveyed in 2012 said that on average they drank 4 alcoholic drinks/week while the students in 2016 reported an average of 2.6 alcoholic drinks/week.
The survey results contained even more encouraging news as the 2016 SMU survey respondents reported being more aware of the university’s policies on alcohol and drug use. In fact, 99 percent of the surveyed students said that they were well informed of campus alcohol and other drugs (AOD) policies. While 80 percent of the students reported that the AOD policies are enforced.
So, what caused this decrease in alcohol consumption and increase in student’s awareness of the consequences? Dr. Ruth Mathews, director of Counseling Services, said that SMU used data from past surveys to identify weak links in their alcohol and drug treatment services. “We figured out how we could mine the data to inform programming and interventions.”
Another reason for this success has been a commitment to hiring staff that could address these weak links. “We hired people who had specialties in drug and alcohol programming, they really knew how to set up and run a good treatment program,” per Mathews.
One of the counselors that coordinates these drug and alcohol programs is Dr. Holly Courtenay. Since arriving at SMU five years ago, she said that she’s “taken a different approach [to programming] where I’ve been a lot more proactive.”
One way Courtenay has been more proactive is by working with other organizations on campus to educate students so they can make better decisions. She said that she’s been “trying to work with the Good Times Committee, Residential Life, and Student Activities to create programs that are half fun and half educational.”
Courtenay said that one example of this type of programming is Mocktail Bingo where students can enjoy mock cocktails while also learning about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption. Courtenay said that most of these programs are held “on nights and weekends so people who aren’t drinking have an alternative.”
Mathews said that another way that SMU has been educating students is by reaching out to new students at freshmen orientation. She said that Counseling Services reaches out to new students “so they don’t feel the pressure of the media that this (alcohol and drugs) is what college life is all about.”
Matthews thinks that this decrease in SMU’s alcohol and drug consumption is the result of a team effort. “We (faculty, staff, and students) pulled together to really try to remove alcohol and drugs from being a barrier to student success.”