UW-Stevens Point emphasizes drug, alcohol policies

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP file photo)

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (AP) - The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has plastered the consequences for violating drug and alcohol policies throughout every residence hall on campus.

Dean of Students Troy Seppelt tells Stevens Point Journal Media that he wants each of the 9,457 students who started classes this week to know what will happen if they violate the university's policies on drinking and drug use. Students could be subject to fines, damages or a required substance abuse class. In past years, such situations were dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

"Our goal is to help students understand the potential outcomes of their actions," Seppelt said.

But he said staff members will listen to students before decisions are made about punishment.

University Police Chief Bill Rowe thinks the new dean's approach will help curb substance use and abuse on campus.

"I think it brings the consequences to students' awareness," Rowe said. "I think it's a positive reminder for students who might not be aware of the consequences."

The university has also implemented a scenario-based program, which focuses on topics like drug and alcohol abuse and sexual assault, that students are required to take online within about five weeks, Seppelt said. The required program is meant to coach students through decisions based on information they input about their lives.

UW-Stevens Point also plans to debut a flow chart system this month that will help faculty and staff deal with students in crisis.

The new policies are in response to an increasing concern over drug use, especially heroin, after a 21-year-old biology major overdosed on the opiate last fall.

Stevens Point Assistant Police Chief Tom Zenner said officers will visit groups of students and speak with landlords in an effort to be proactive and address potential situations before they lead to problems. He said the same approach worked last year during homecoming weekend because there were fewer reports of alcohol-related incidents. The approach will be used again this year, he said, and will hopefully lessen unlawful student behavior.