[Fresh] Interview with the Dean of Students

Kelly Eastland (kelly.eastland@villanova.edu)
Mon, 07 Oct 2002 08:53:52 -0400

Interview with Paul Pugh, Dean of Students.

Fresh@news. Tell us a little about the Dean of Students Office.

Dean Pugh. The Dean of Students Office is responsible for overseeing the student code of
conduct and handbook, judicial affairs, graduation, the Center for Health and Wellness
Education and community relations. Most students think our office is mainly judicial and
they see us as the bad guy. While upholding the student code of conduct is a function of
our office, it is only a small percent. We are here to support students in all aspects of
their campus life.

Fresh@news. Your office coordinates alcohol education for students. What types of things
are you doing?

Dean Pugh. Our goal is to educate students to change their behavior by making informed
decisions around alcohol. Our office coordinates or is responsible for: 1. prevention
measures 2. intervention 3. enforcement measures and 4. education. In terms of educating
our students, we recently implemented a program called AlcoholEdu for all freshmen as well
as starting a Social Norms campaign on campus. Both of these programs fall under the
cognizance of our new Center for Health and Wellness Education and I would encourage all
parents to contact the Center for more information.

Fresh@news. Let’s start with the first program you mentioned, what is AlcoholEdu?

Dean Pugh AlcoholEdu is an online program that educates students about the effects of
alcohol on the body and mind. The course is easy to use and students can work at their own
pace. It contains 6 chapters or sections with interactive exercises, streaming video
presentations, case studies and multiple choice questions about alcohol. After completing
the chapters, there is a final test of 40 questions. All freshmen students are required to
complete the course. I went through the program and was surprised by how many new things
that I learned.

Fresh@News How long does it take?

Dean Pugh The entire program takes about 3 hours to complete, but students don’t have to
complete it at one time. They can do a section, save the program and go back to it later.
Students were informed about the program during Orientation and have until October 11th to
complete the program.

Fresh@News What’s the general reaction?

Dean Pugh Students have found the program to be thought provoking and educational. The
interactive nature seems to keep them interested. Some have said, “It’s too long, but I
learned a lot.” While some students may think it is too long, they have 7 or 8 weeks to
complete it, so it is not overwhelming at all.

Fresh@News What other ways are you educating students about alcohol?

Dean Pugh As I mentioned earlier, the social norms campaign is a fairly new initiative at
Villanova. Research has shown that students tend to overestimate the amount of drinking
that they “think” their peers consume in comparison to the actual amount consumed. The
social norms campaign is trying to educate students about what is actually happening rather
than what they think is happening with regard to alcohol behavior. For example, if you ask
the question, how many drinks does a typical male Villanova student drink on any given
weekend, the answers will be much higher than the reality. The goal is to bring students’
perceptions about drinking in line with the actual behavior. Universities that have been
using this approach have found that as perceptions become more aligned with reality that
alcohol consumption has decreased.

Fresh@News. Sounds interesting, but how do you do that?

Dean Pugh. Well we have a lot of data from student surveys and we’re using that information
to educate students. We’re sending factual messages about our campus to the students.
We’ve developed a poster campaign tailored to Villanova that asks students, “What are YOU
doing?” The posters present lots of information, for example, statistics about alcohol
consumption; the amount of alcohol in certain types of drinks; useful phone numbers for
additional information; and alternative activities and events. For the freshmen, we’ve also
added some practical information like the student TV channel guide. As an incentive,
freshmen students who display these posters in their rooms can receive $5 if an Alcohol Peer
Educator visits the room and finds the poster. This has been very effective in getting
information to the students and we’ve even had students request additional posters!

Fresh@News. What advice would you give parents about underage drinking?

Dean Pugh. Awareness is crucial. Before students arrived on campus, I sent a letter about
our alcohol policy home, so that students and parents could review it together. I also
included a brochure about Alcoholedu. Students will be held to this policy, so it’s
important that they understand it. Secondly, talk to your son/daughter about drinking. You
know your children better than we do and it is important that they make responsible
decisions. I’ve seen many students make poor decisions around alcohol and really hurt their
future because of it. Continue to talk with your son/daughter even though you are far
away. Ask questions about what is happening on campus, in their residence hall and even
with their roommates. Often, students will talk more openly about others than they will
about their own personal behavior. And finally, contact our Center for Health and Wellness
Education at 610-519-7407 or stop by for a visit.

Fresh@News. If students do get into trouble with alcohol, will you notify the parents?

Dean Pugh. Every time a student is found with alcohol, we don’t necessarily send a letter
home. However, when a student is placed on probation, we do send a letter home. This is a
more serious sanction and the student could lose housing privileges or be suspended from the
university for subsequent violations.

Fresh@News. When should a parent call your office?

Dean Pugh. Parents call our office all the time for a number of reasons. Some parents don’t
know where else to turn, so they call us. If we can’t help you, we can usually point you in
the right direction to get the appropriate information you need. Our office phone number is
(610) 519-4200. In an emergency during the evenings or weekends, parents can contact the
Office of Public Safety at (610) 519-4444.

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