Faculty & Staff


faculty at commencementNumerous studies of U.S. college students demonstrate that substance misuse and abuse negatively affects students' academic performance, engagement with faculty, overall health and the quality of campus and community life.

For statistics related to high-risk drinking and other drug use by college students, review The Impact of Alcohol on Academic Performance (pdf doc) or visit www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov.

Drinking and Other Drugs at Northwestern

The following responses came from a 2012 Alcohol and Other Drug Survey completed by 653 Northwestern undergraduates.

As a result of drinking or other drug use:

  • 33% had studying disrupted as a result of other students' drinking
  • 26% missed class
  • 21% performed poorly on a test or important project
  • 14% were hurt or injured
  • 39% had a black out/couldn't remember things that happened
  • 31% engaged in public misconduct (such as trouble with police, fighting/argument, DUI, vandalism)
  • 10% thought they might have a problem

What Faculty and Staff Can Do

Support Prevention Efforts on Campus

Students often assume heavy and frequent drinking or drug use in college is normal and acceptable. These assumptions can lead to abuse and misuse. By adopting some of the suggestions listed below, you can help create a healthier campus culture.

In Class and Around Campus

  • Share accurate norms about NU students’ drinking behavior: about 1 in 4 choose not to drink; about half report consuming at low risk levels or not at all; most drink on two or fewer occasions per week. See Real NU Party Habits for more information.
  • Avoid joking about heavy drinking. This normalizes risky drinking behavior and may appear to condone it.
  • Avoid enabling the behavior (e.g., accepting excuses, pushing back deadlines and ignoring problems caused by drinking or drug use). Shielding a person from consequences indirectly allows them to continue drinking or using drugs in problematic ways.
  • Announce on- or off-campus events to promote school spirit, community engagement and alternatives to the party/bar scene.
  • Become familiar with the University’s alcohol policies.
  • In situations where you are with students in the presence of alcohol, let university policy and state law be your guide.

In the Classroom

  • Schedule classes, quizzes and deadlines on Mondays through Fridays. This discourages students from drinking heavily on weekday nights. (Drinking on Monday night at the Keg is popular among NU undergrads.)
  • Make it clear that students’ participation in class is important, and that alcohol impairment in the classroom is unacceptable.
  • Assign group projects. Working in groups is one way for students to build relationships outside the classroom without alcohol.
  • Integrate the subject matter of alcohol and other drug abuse into your courses when possible.

Identify and Refer Students at Risk

Because of their regular contact with students, faculty and staff are often among the first to notice that a student is having personal problems. While you are not expected to take on the role of counselor, you may be well positioned to connect a student to available help.

Potential Warning Signs of an Alcohol or Other Drug Problem

  • Deterioration in work/academic performance, including increased tardiness, absences or requests for extensions.
  • Recurring substance-related legal problems, including trouble with campus authorities.
  • Continued use despite ongoing interpersonal problems that are caused or worsened by drinking.
  • Mood changes such as temper flare-ups, irritability and defensiveness.
  • Physical or mental indicators such as memory lapses, lack of personal hygiene, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination or slurred speech.
  • Disclosure, by a student, that there might be a drinking or drug problem.
  • Multiple signs and a pattern (versus a single episode) make it more likely that there is a significant problem.

How to Help

  • Communicating with the student is the first step. Here are some tips:
  • Consult with a professional in Health Promotion and Wellness or a CAPS counselor for guidelines on how to intervene.
  • Talk to the person privately when neither of you are rushed.
    • Express your care and concern: “I’m concerned about you.”
    • Describe in specific, nonjudgmental terms the behaviors or signs that concern you: “I’m concerned about you because I’ve noticed you haven’t been to class in two weeks, and when you are here, you appear not to be focused.”
    • Make a referral for help: “Many students find that talking with a professional is helpful.” See the Explore Your Use page and suggest that they examine their use through BASICS, a confidential and free service for students.
    • Follow-up to see how things are going.