Alcohol education a priority

Queen’s health outreach fixates on frosh week initiatives

The ban on alcohol in residence during Orientation Week was enacted in 2011.
The ban on alcohol in residence during Orientation Week was enacted in 2011.
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For the fourth consecutive year, alcohol will be banned from residence buildings during Orientation Week.

The alcohol ban, which was enacted following the deaths of two students in 2010, is part of a larger strategy enacted by University officials, aimed at promoting physical, mental and emotional health on campus.

The deaths of first-year students Cameron Bruce and Habib Khan were deemed by a coroner to be alcohol-related in 2010. Bruce died that September after falling out of a residence window, while Khan was killed that December after falling through a library skylight.

In 2011, Coroner Roger Skinner recommended that Queen’s review its campus alcohol policies. Alcohol has since been banned from residence buildings during Orientation Week.

The University’s overall strategy comprises a mix of professional and student-led initiatives, including research on student alcohol consumption.

According to the 2013 National College Health Assessment (NCHA) survey, which sampled roughly 1,200 Queen’s students as part of a 34,000-student total across the country, Queen’s students were above the national average in binge drinking.

Of Queen’s students who consume alcohol, 57 per cent reported binge drinking (five or more drinks) in the two weeks leading up to the survey, compared to the national average of 36 per cent.

Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS) conducted the Queen’s portion of the NCHA. This type of research is a key part of the University’s overall student health strategy, according to Arig al Shaibah, assistant dean of student affairs.

“The reasons we are doing all of these surveys ... is to be able to then identify the places where we should be focusing on [are] with respect to ensuring that students can remain safe in our environment,” al Shaibah said.

In the NCHA survey, 72 per cent of first-year Queen’s students polled said they’d consumed alcohol at least once in the previous 30 days.

Forty-six per cent of Queen’s students who drank reported doing something they later regretted, compared with 39 per cent of total respondents.

“Substance abuse, specifically around alcohol misuse, is a really challenging area because it requires that multifaceted approach,” said Kate Humphrys, health promotion coordinator at HCDS.

Autumn is a critical time to reach out to new students, Humphrys said, adding that HCDS plans to inform students in September about health resources available on campus.

In residence, dons facilitate an activity called Name That Health Logo, where different campus services are introduced and discussed, including HCDS, Walkhome, the Peer Support Centre and Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre.

Walkhome provides escorted walks throughout campus and the University District.

The student-run Peer Support Centre provides confidential drop-in counselling services, while Four Directions offers academic tutoring, cultural programming and workshops.

Another key area of emphasis for HCDS, Humphrys said, is safe and smart alcohol use.

During Orientation Week, students are informed about resources like the Campus Observation Room (COR), a non-medical detox centre in the basement of Victoria Hall where intoxicated students can stay overnight.

As a non-judgmental service, COR volunteers don’t berate intoxicated students or provide information on who has used the service to university officials.

Michelle Chrabalowski, who worked as a residence don on West Campus last year, saw the positive effects of temporarily banning alcohol in residence.

“I definitely think a dry Frosh Week benefits the school because students have energy to take part in the daytime activities, which really noticeably fosters their sense of community,” she said.

Chrabalowski said it’s important for dons to explain the effects of drinking on the liver and brain to their residents.

“This allows students to see in a direct way why they should limit drinking,” she said, “rather than making [the ban] seem like a rule meant to make life in residence more calm and quiet.”

— With files from Chloe Sobel

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