Expectations of ORL Staff Regarding Alcohol Use

Context

The problems associated with college students’ use and abuse of alcohol are well documented and long standing. Given the new freedoms students realize they have soon after arriving on campus and living in our residence halls & apartments, part of some students’ collegiate experience involves experimenting with alcohol to varying degrees (i.e., using for the first time to increasing usage of alcoholic beverages used pre-college to using different forms of alcohol altogether). As residence life staff members, our goals are to:

  1. Encourage students to examine the relationship they have with alcohol
  2. Help students navigate the experimenting some do
  3. Support abstainers to cope with what feels like a culture “where everyone drinks and it’s the only way to socialize/meet new people”
  4. Hold students accountable to the university standards regarding alcohol use and abuse
  5. Refer students to appropriate university resources when their use of alcohol interferes with their success or the success of others around whom they live.   

None of the five goals listed can be accomplished to the fullest extent if residence life staff members themselves have not examined their use of alcohol and comport themselves appropriately. This is particularly important for ORL staff members who both live and work in the residence halls and apartments. When at home, live-in staff members are there to respond to situations needing immediate attention regardless of the time of day and, thus, are expected to be able to professionally respond when called upon to do so. The excessive use of alcohol (defined below) can compromise this job obligation. 

The choice to use or not use alcohol is an individual choice for each Office of Residence Life staff member. There is no prohibition for ORL professional staff possessing or consuming alcohol responsibly within staff apartments. There are some prohibitions for RAs, depending on the type of residence hall to which they are assigned [see #1 below].  

Expectations

This document outlines the expectations of Miami University’s Office of Residence Life regarding staff members’ use of alcohol for those who choose to do so. These expectations apply to all staff members, including Central Staff members, Professional Staff members, Resident Assistants, and Commuter Assistants.

  1. The use of alcohol by residence life staff must be legal. This means professional staff may possess and consume alcohol in their apartments, and RAs who are over the age of 21 in upper class residence halls can possess and consume alcohol in their rooms. The Office of Residence Life prohibits RAs in first year halls, regardless of age, from possessing or consuming alcohol in their residence hall rooms. Furthermore, the providing of alcohol by staff members of age to anyone not of age is illegal and is also prohibited. 
  2. Behaviors resulting from the use of alcohol that are illegal are also prohibited (e.g., public drunkenness, driving while intoxicated).
  3. While the low-risk use of alcohol is each staff member’s choice to make, the excessive use of alcohol, even if legally consumed, is prohibited. Thus, it is important that all staff members know their limits regarding the use of alcohol. ORL defines excessive use as follows: Use of alcohol is excessive if a staff member, as a result of the use of alcohol, is unable to perform the requirements of his/her position when living /working in our residence halls.    
  4. When a staff member is on campus, the use of alcohol cannot compromise the staff member’s ability to respond to a student situation. Further, the excessive use of alcohol is prohibited when a staff member is conducting University business (e.g., accompanying students on a service trip or to a conference) or using University resources (e.g., attending a professional conference). 
  5. Staff members should refrain from using alcohol when accompanying students and in the role of adviser, chaperone, or driver to these students. This does not mean that you cannot be in bar/restaurant where students are present and never consume alcohol. For example, if you are in a bar/restaurant in uptown Oxford with colleagues and students who you know enter, there is no expectation that you must leave or cease your appropriate use of alcohol. In this situation, as in all situations where we know students view us as having authority, the expectation is that we act appropriately.  
  6. Students watch and learn from what we do. Therefore, ORL expects staff members to be appropriate role models regarding the use of alcohol, just as we are role models in many other arenas of our work. Understanding that all university staff members’ behaviors are subject to institutional scrutiny regardless of locale, it is particularly important that ORL staff members refrain from activities such as drinking games, pub crawls, and so forth when in our residence halls and apartments or in environments where our students are present. These activities send messages – either implicitly or explicitly to students – that minimize or trivialize the power of  alcohol socially, psychologically, culturally, and/or physically, and students who engage in these risk-taking behaviors involving alcohol are jeopardizing their chances of success.  
  7. For staff who are permitted to consume alcohol and who are required to be “on duty”, the consumption of alcohol when on duty is prohibited.
  8. Just as we hope students will seek assistance in managing their use of alcohol, so too should staff. Staff members are welcomed and encouraged to talk with their supervisor or other staff who can assist regarding any difficulties that exist as a result of their use of alcohol in the performance of their duties.
  9. Staff members needing assistance in negotiating/reconciling any conflict between one’s personal values regarding alcohol use and these expectations should consult with their supervisors.
  10. Staff members who violate these expectations are subject to judicial and/or personnel action that could result in the loss of employment within the Office of Residence Life.

References

For undergraduate and graduate students, the university policy on alcohol can be found in Chapter 4 of the Student Handbook.

For faculty/full-time staff, the Miami University Policy and Information Manual has a section on alcohol, which can be found at MUPIM Section 16.1.

Questions regarding this document should be directed to the appropriate supervisor.

January, 2014