For Immediate Release
Halifax, NS – Today, Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) released Student Safety in Nova Scotia: A Review of Student Union Policies and Practices to Reduce the Harmful Effects of Overconsumption of Alcohol. The independent review includes 31 recommendations for student union programming and advocacy to reduce dangerous alcohol consumption.
“Overconsumption of alcohol is a critical problem with very serious impacts on students’ health and safety, especially here in Nova Scotia”, said StudentsNS Chair Amy Brierley. “This Review identifies concrete steps for our student unions to keep our students safe and help change our cultural norms around alcohol.”
Nova Scotia’s rate of heavy drinking is higher than the Canadian average (22.3% compared to 17.4%) and rates among students are even higher. Approximately 26% of Nova Scotia university students report problems related either to their own drinking or that of others, compared to 19.5% of other Canadian university students.
The review argues that prohibition cannot work, but students need to change the way they drink. Drinking is part of university life for many students, but the culture of drinking has to change to protect students’ safety and wellbeing. Student leadership is critical for changing cultural norms. Strategies include awareness campaigns and hosting dry events.
“Our students don’t need to drink to have a good time, it’s more about being together,” said Matthew Rios, Acadia Students’ Union President and Chair of the Review’s Steering Committee. “Our focus is on creating an environment where students are looking out for each other and building inclusive and healthy communities.”
At the same time, student unions should ensure their campus bars are the safest places for students to drink. The Review shows that student union bars have fewer liquor license violations than most other bars, but recommends steps to further enhance bar safety.
“We want our campus bars to be the safest places for students to party and draw students away from less safe environments,” said Rios. “The review shows that our bars are already doing well in upholding high standards for safety, but provides valuable advice for further improvements.”
An independent review of student union policies and practices around sexual violence prevention was released in January. StudentsNS and the Acadia Students’ Union will co-host a conference on March 21 to coordinate further action on the two Reviews’ recommendations.
“These Reviews are setting the stage for significant sexual violence prevention and alcohol safety work at student unions across Nova Scotia, providing advice not just to this year’s leaders, but also to future cohorts,” said Brierley. “Our members are committed to considering the Reviews’ recommendations thoroughly and taking action.”
The author, independent consultant Anne Martell, conducted 81 interviews with student union leaders, university staff and other health experts. The participating student unions at Acadia, CBU, the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture, the Mount, StFX and SMU together financed $13,465 of the $21,000 project and each nominated a steering committee member to provide oversight. The Province and Cape Breton University provided the remainder of the project’s funding.
The Review is available online at http://studentsns.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2014-02-26-Final-Alcohol-Report-2smallpdf.com_.pdf
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Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) is a not-for-profit and non-partisan advocacy group that represents 38,452 Nova Scotia post-secondary students, including 87% of the university student population. Our members study at Acadia, Cape Breton, Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, and St. Francis Xavier Universities, the Kingstec Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College, and the Atlantic School of Theology.
For more information or questions, please contact:
Matthew Rios, Acadia Students’ Union President
StudentsNS Executive Director