First meeting for new alcohol working group

Laker seeks to change student attitudes, habits towards drinking

Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker said images of alcohol in popular culture encourage excessive drinking for youth.
Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker said images of alcohol in popular culture encourage excessive drinking for youth.

In a small sample size, about 30 per cent of Queen’s students could be classified as heavy or frequent
drinkers; 50 per cent of students report harmful or hazardous levels of drinking; about 45 per cent of students report missing class because of a hangover.

Dean of Student Affairs Jason Laker cited these statistics—gathered in a survey of Queen’s students by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in 1994—to draw attention to the problem he’s addressing in a new working group: that of student drinking.

“It is an issue that is a forever issue,” Laker said. “Every university has to think about it, some more than others.”

Laker said the group is responsible for considering what outreach efforts can be devised to encourage students to abandon unhealthy alcohol use. Although the working group itself is unlikely to plan events,
it’s meant to act as a kind of support group, Laker said, with representatives from the AMS, Main Campus Residence Council and the Jean Royce Hall Council, as well as from public health.

A fundamental aspect of the group is to consider ways in which students can help other students with regards to alcohol-related issues.

Laker said images of alcohol in popular society encourage excessive rinking among young people.

“People start drinking at 14, 15, 16 years old, and they see images of university life, of how to be a ‘real’ university student,” he said. Meghan Teuber, AMS vice-president (university affairs), says she and AMS President James Macmillan attended the group’s initial meeting.

“At that point, there were talks surrounding what we could investigate on campus,” Teuber said, adding that the group is still in its early stages of development, and that it will be something to discuss with the new executive in transition. Teuber said she thought the firstmeeting was interesting.

“There were definitely some interesting ideas that went across the table,” she said. “There was some
talk about … helping [students] learn how to drink. Maybe instead of going out and drinking four nights a week, go out four nights a week and only drink two nights.” Mike Condra, director of Health, Counselling and Disability Services, agreed that it’s important for students to communicate with other students about these issues. “Peer-to-peer connection is really important because alcohol is a part of most of our lives, and we get all kinds of messaging from one another,” he said. “The group should aim to teach people the social norms of drinking, and encourage people that drinking excessively isn’t the norm.” Laker said it’s difficult for students to confront their peers regarding alcohol abuse.

“If you have some tools for how to form the words and say something, this will help a friendship.”

—With files from Anna Mehler Paperny

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