AA on campus couldn’t hurt

By Editorial Board

With substance abuse among students becoming an increasingly alarming issue at colleges across the country, Columbia has finally taken some steps on campus to help curb drug and alcohol abuse. But although they are steps in the right direction, they may not be enough.

For a little more than a month now, Counseling Services at Columbia has been hosting Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on campus and also launched “Bridge the Gap,” a new program that pairs up students looking for help with AA sponsors who have been sober for at least a year.

The new initiatives serve as an outlet for students looking to get sober from chemical dependencies, and Columbia is one of the first colleges in the nation to adapt this kind of program into campus life.

Having these programs in place at Columbia could certainly be effective, but are they missing the point? AA meetings are typically meant for those who have serious problems with substance abuse. Perhaps the college should work more closely with Counseling Services to get to the root of the issue: Why do students drink in the first place? Most alcoholics and addicts struggle with serious emotional issues, causing them to develop chemical dependencies. Instead of waiting until students have hit rock bottom-or close to it-faculty and staff should look into training to detect problems before they become even bigger ones.

Also at issue is the far reach of alcoholism or drug abuse. Roommates, friends and family perhaps need just as much emotional support or guidance as the addicts themselves. The college, and especially Residence Life staff, should strongly encourage and promote seeking help from Counseling Services before shipping students off to AA meetings or the “Bridge the Gap” program. Many students have found the services offered there to helpful and productive, and they should still be utilized.

Students have long been concerned about drug and alcohol abuse in the residence halls on campus. Stories about the numerous drug dealers living in dormitories and the ease with which one can sneak alcohol into the supposedly “dry campus” residence halls aren’t just concerning; they’re appalling and somewhat dangerous.

“Bridge the Gap” and the AA meetings aren’t meant to serve as punishments or requirements for violators of the dry campus policy in the dorms, as they shouldn’t be. But the issue of abuse in the dormitories should certainly be examined further. The current consequences in place for violators in the dorms should be reviewed, as they are often ineffective. Rarely will students take a punishment of writing a paper about the consequences of alcohol abuse seriously.

The new initiatives look and sound great on paper, but they may be missing the root of the problem. College students in general are likely to engage in drug or alcohol abuse, but education about abuse is still relevant. The programs will certainly help more than harm, but Columbia should direct more focus to healing the wound rather than just covering it with a bandage.