As a parent of an incoming Marquette student, you most likely have heard about the culture of drinking on campus from your student, and/or from Marquette University directly. It is a topic that we engage parents in at Family Orientation each fall and through AlcoholEdu for Parents. Marquette University certainly is not alone in experiencing challenges related to college students’ high-risk drinking. We recognize that it is a problem with wide implications for our community, and the University has dedicated considerable resources to addressing high-risk drinking, and supporting students who choose not to drink or drink in responsible ways.
Each summer, newfirst-year students are required to complete two online courses: AlcoholEdu, an educational tool regarding alcohol use and Haven, an educational tool regarding sexual assault in the collegiate setting. New students are also required to attend a program during Orientation that addresses the alcohol culture at Marquette. There are a variety of entertainment and social options both on and off campus for students who do not drink, or who drink in moderate or low-risk ways. Marquette University currently has over 250 student organizations and dozens of Late Night Marquette activities that do not include alcohol. In addition, many students take advantage of the vibrant arts, music, and social scene in the city of Milwaukee.
Most parents underestimate the power of their influence over their students’ behavior while in college. National studies have shown that parents have a key influence on how often their students engage in risky behavior, including alcohol use. In fact, in many instances, parents have a greater influence on their students’ behavior than the University can have.
Marquette University maintains consistent messaging regarding alcohol to students, and in holding students accountable for behaviors that disrupt the campus community. Students who are found responsible for violating the Student Code of Conduct face consequences from the University including fines. In cases in which students are hospitalized for alcohol overdose and/or placed on University Probation for alcohol-related violations, parents are notified of the University’s response.
So how can you have a conversation with your student about making healthy choices regarding alcohol? It may help to focus on the big picture first. Ask your student about what is going well for him/her in all aspects of his or her life. Ask about their goals and aspirations, and if their daily lifestyle is contributing to their goals. Many students who are drinking too much and/or too often, will see a decline in grades, and/or may not be satisfied with the quality or variety of their friendships.
Many students may tell you that “this is just what college students do”, and you as a parent may hear your student express resignation to the drinking culture. While unfortunately that may be true for some students, as parents you have the ability to call your students to a higher thought process by challenging them to consider “what if” it didn’t have to be that way. What might their daily life be like if they drank less often or not at all? Who else might they meet, or how else might they spend their time?
Likewise, students who choose not to drink, or drink in low-risk ways, also need parental support. We know that 65% of our incoming first-year students abstain from alcohol use, so students who do not drink are in good company (AlcoholEdu for College, 2015). Still, the dominant culture on Marquette’s campus on the weekends may make this decision challenging at times, and encouragement from a parent may be appreciated by your student.
What do the numbers say?
AlcoholEdu for College
We ask that all first-year students complete the AlcoholEdu for College and Haven Sexual Violence Prevention programs. The courses open on July 18 and must be completed by August 24.
What Marquette is doing about the alcohol culture
At Marquette the safety and well-being of students is paramount, so we offer the following evidence-based programs regarding alcohol and safety:
Nationally, we are seeing an increase of abstainers coming to college. This trend is also seen at Marquette, where 65% of the first-year class identified as abstainers in fall 2014. The challenge we see occurs due to what we term the college effect, meaning that the number of abstainers in the first-year class decrease mid-semester to approximately 45%. The collegiate setting, with new experiences and challenges itself, presents an environment that might change student behavioral expectations.
With the outlined programs and initiatives in place, Marquette University aims to support abstainers. Since implementation of prevention and wellness initiatives we have seen a gradual decrease in both frequency and amount of alcohol use on campus, but the challenge of binge or high-risk alcohol use continues to be an area of work within the campus community. A move towards focusing on student overall wellness and the role alcohol use and substance abuse plays in challenging wellness will continue to be a focus of prevention and intervention work at Marquette.