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Whatever Happened to the Substance Education Team?

By: Joshua Boucher

The Substance Education Team, a team of students responsible for promoting responsible use of substances, is no longer a thing at the University of Windsor. The SET had responsibilities like providing information to students about responsible drinking, hosting programs in tandem with Residence Services during Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day, and running alcohol education sessions on campus.

In previous years they also had a focus on educating students about alcohol and consent. In 2015, they had students participate in #ConsentGetSome, where people would use lyrics from popular songs to raise awareness about consent issues. Given how ubiquitous overconsumption of alcohol is at universities, it seems that a team with these responsibilities would be a fairly important thing to have, right?

Well, the administration decided to get rid of it anyway. I had a sit-down with Ryan Flannagan in late October to find out whatever happened to the SET. Ryan Flannagan is the university’s Associate Vice-President, Student Experience. He’s the guy who emails those Student Newsletters that you always ignore. He’s also the one who led the committee of university administrators that made the decision to cancel the Substance Education Team.

“If we’re not going to do it well…let’s not do things that are wasting people’s time” – Ryan Flannagan, Associate Vice-President, Student Experience

It turns out that alcohol consumption is actually a relatively low priority for the administration. Our school just doesn’t have a big drinking problem. That’s not to say that everyone enrolled at uWin is a Sober Sally, but on the community level, there’s no need for a comprehensive alcohol strategy. And at this point, I’ll note: an alcohol strategy is a public health document with a detailed, long-term plan for addressing an observed, community-level issue with alcohol. Our school doesn’t have one, nor does it need one.

It’s pretty nice when university administrators can confidently say that they don’t need to initiate a comprehensive alcohol strategy. But at the same time, Flannagan said, “that’s a challenge from a spirit perspective.” He stated that it would be nice to see more student engagement when it comes to events like football games and homecoming, but he made it very clear that he does not want to see cars overturned and burning on campus.

And while we may not need an alcohol strategy, we still, of course, have alcohol policies at the departmental level. Residence has them, Campus Police has them, Student Health has them, and so on. The UWSA also has a set of policies they must follow when involving alcohol as part of their student engagement events.

For example, the Student Groups’ “Clubs Crawl” (a pub crawl that happened in early September to raise funds for Student Groups) was definitely on the radar of the alcohol advisory committee. While they didn’t have a problem with the event, Flannagan did say he’d prefer it if they didn’t call it a “crawl.” The connotation of mass consumption is neither good for students nor for the university’s image. That being said, the administration felt that the event in question was handled in a sufficiently responsible way.

University Unrolls Mental Health Strategy

If the need for a comprehensive alcohol strategy does arise, Flannagan foresees collaboration between administration, faculty, and students. In the meantime, the university’s main priority is the currently ongoing mental health strategy. In response to student concerns about mental health, the university has responded in a few different ways. For one, they’re trying to increase awareness of mental health services that already exist on campus:

  • Student Counselling Centre: room 293 of the CAW
  • Peer Support Centre: room 291 of the CAW
  • Student Health Services: room 242 of the CAW

As well as services that exist off campus:

  • Good2Talk: 24-hour mental health hotline at 1-866-925-5454
  • WellTrack: online learning modules for mental health strategies. Free if you sign up with your uWindsor email address.

For two, they will also be unrolling a few new services:

  • KeepmeSafe: a 24/7-support service for international students
  • The Mental Health Wellness Coordinator: a human being who will develop and implement mental health wellness programs that aim to prevent students being overwhelmed or going into crisis

The focus of the Mental Health Wellness Coordinator will be on the Faculty of Engineering, probably because they get stressed out a lot, but also possibly because their tuition pays more.

Who knows?

(Lots of people. It’s the first reason.)



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