In the spring of 2015, following a highly publicized drug incident on campus, Wesleyan convened a task force to identify best practices regarding illegal drug policy, outreach, and prevention. In addition to campus representatives, the task force included alumni and parents with expertise in this area, as well as local and national prevention and policy experts.
The task force recently issued its report, with recommendations including:
Augment bystander intervention training to include scenarios involving illegal drug use;
Build awareness of existing Wesleyan resources and networks supporting students in recovery and those who abstain;
Strengthen ties to local treatment resources and improve the process of making referrals to these agencies;
Audit messaging around alcohol and drug use, and work toward alignment of formal and informal messages;
Equip and train Public Safety to use Narcan (opioid use at Wesleyan remains low, but this is now a “best practice” on campuses given increased use in many communities);
Increase education and communication about university judicial outcomes as well as possible legal consequences related to alcohol and drug use.
Survey data, asking students to identify behavior in the past 30 days, shows that drug use, besides alcohol and marijuana, remains relatively low, though it’s still a serious concern with 7 percent of Wesleyan students abusing or misusing prescription drugs not prescribed to them, 5 percent abusing cocaine, and 2 percent abusing ecstasy. This is fairly consistent with national averages at colleges and universities. About 45 percent of the student body uses marijuana at least once a month.
The task force organized its thinking and recommendations at four levels ranging from individual issues related to drug use to overarching policy and enforcement. Strategies for addressing problems at various levels were selected following review of research and best practices in collegiate alcohol and other drug education.
The report stated that simply providing information about drugs and the harm they cause is ineffective. More promising is providing one-on-one counseling as well as support for students in recovery and those choosing not to use.
On the interpersonal level, the report cites the need to correct misperceptions about student use and abuse of drugs, and to expand the successful bystander intervention program.
At the organization and community level, the report recommends that Wesleyan evaluate the intentional and unintentional messages that the campus community receives about drug use, with the goal of eliminating inconsistencies and ensuring that accurate information is conveyed.
Regarding policy and enforcement, the task force found that Wesleyan’s policies are clear and not in need of significant change. The problem lies in perceptions by students that they won’t get caught or face serious legal consequences. Recommendations center on the need to correct misperceptions and educate students about the university’s intention to enforce its policy and help them understand the legal and judicial risks of engaging in illegal activities regarding drugs.
The full report and its many recommendations are available at wesleyan.edu/weswell, under the “resources” section.