What Could a Sobriety Movement in 2017 Mean for Student Engagement?

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Whereas the offer of a mocktail or non-alcoholic-anything may have once elicited eye-rolls among most partygoers on a Saturday night, sobriety has recently gained some attention as a possible wellness trend in 2017. While the obvious question associated with this trend is why people are opting to cut down or abstain from drinking altogether, I find myself asking what seems to be my favourite question these days. How might this trend impact student engagement efforts in higher education? Assuming, of course, that this “sobriety movement” will establish any real presence on university and college campuses. Of course, it is not the mere consumption of alcohol itself, but excessive and irresponsible alcohol use that elicits true concern, particularly among underage students. Alcohol abuse on college campuses has been linked to higher rates of academic failure, violence and fatalities, as well as numerous physical and mental health concerns. So, the possibility that students are not just refraining from drinking alcohol, but truly considering the social and health-related risks of drinking, could be great news. How might higher ed campuses continue to foster and support such a movement? In all honesty, I don’t have any real answers to this incredibly hypothetical question. Instead, I have a couple of follow-up questions: Are more students going to be seeking out activities and gatherings that are not just alcohol-optional but alcohol-free? Could this be an opportune time for Student Affairs professionals to ramp up initiatives aimed at raising awareness and preventing alcohol abuse on campus? In the fight against alcohol abuse on campus, technology can play a crucial role in raising awareness and pointing students toward necessary supports and resources. Similarly, social media platforms can connect students with positive and meaningful experiences through events, activities, and groups on campus, while also gathering useful feedback on their needs, preferences, and participation. What better way to meet a student where they are than through the very device that places the power of autonomy, freedom of self-expression, and benefit of knowledge within the palm of their hand?


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