Concern over drug abuse leads to new tracking efforts

In partnership with campus police, the counseling center and other departments at Tech, the Office of the Dean of Students has begun tracking patterns of alcohol and substance usage on campus in an effort address what is a growing problem in universities across the country. Although consumption of alcohol and drugs at Tech is below the national average, incidents over the past year have prompted the Institute to take a closer look at related issues on campus.

Dean of Students John Stein has been holding weekly meetings to review alcohol and drug related activity on campus and as a result several measures will be put into effect in the short term and in the long term to help curb consumption of drugs on campus.

“We are tracking information much more carefully this year whereas in the past we really did not. The information that we collect comes from students, campus-wide surveys, and we are also gathering information about how many students were sent to the hospital on an alcohol related incident, and how many students were detained by campus police,” Stein said.

Stein noted that approximately one-third of the student population at Tech consistently chooses to abstain from alcohol. “Our numbers indicate that while don’t have a major problem with alcohol consumption, for a period of time last semester we were averaging 2 to 3 hospitalizations every week for alcohol related activity, and that really concerned us,” Stein said.

Most of the students who are written up for alcohol violations on campus are freshmen. Out of the 116 total violations that came through the judicial system in the fall, 54 of them were committed by freshmen. The judicial system may impose a number of sanctions on a student, ranging from a $75 fine to expulsion depending on the severity of the infraction.

With regards to illegal drug and substance abuse, Stein acknowledged that the most commonly abused drug on campus that students are caught with is marijuana.

“When we follow up on a concern about a student reported by a faculty member, relative or another student, we do so to try to help them, not discipline them,” said Stein. He encouraged students not to take matters into their own hands during an emergency situation, but to “make the call” and not to worry about any disciplinary consequences.

“My main concern when I go home at night or on the weekends is that students on-campus are safe,” Stein said.

When asked if they felt that alcohol and drug abuse was prevalent on campus, students generally responded that although it occurs regularly, it is not out of ordinary on a college campus. Others however, expressed concern about over the counter drug abuse.

“Besides alcohol consumption, I think that a growing problem on campus involves students taking pills to stay awake or to study,” said Sierra Schmidt, second year BCHM.

The institute has taken several measures to mollify issues related to drugs and alcohol. Last year, a consultant was hired to investigate alcohol and substance abuse on campus. The report that resulted out of that investigation included a list of 15 recommendations that will be put into use over the short and long term.

That report played a role in the Institute’s decision to continue the AlcoholEDU program on campus. It also acknowledged that numerous programs to encourage alcohol and drug safety were present on campus through entities such as the AA, Greek Life and RHA but they lacked coordination.

Going forward these programs will receive more oversight and resources to send their message to the campus community more effectively.

“No matter how many programs or reforms we come up with to reduce alcohol and drugs on campus, we won’t get anywhere until the students meet us half-way and help us solve the problem. Students need to tell their friends when they’ve had too much to drink or when they’re doing something that is dangerous to their health, only then can we have a safer campus” Stein said.