Alcohol abuse among students can be a major cause of social disorder in their campus life. David Richardson, Director of Student Services from University of Otago, joins us for a conversation on how the Campus Watch initiative can change student culture and attitudes and create a safer campus environment.
The University of Otago has implemented a number of initiatives to reduce alcohol-related harm on campus. Which initiatives do you feel have worked most effectively and why?
David: It is difficult to credit any one initiative as it was recognised from the start that there was no ‘silver bullet’ and that our best chance of achieving change would be if we used a multi-faceted approach. Having said that, some initiatives certainly had some significant financial costs, while others required significant changes in how staff operated or were refocused.
The two most expensive investments made were:
What do you feel are the key hurdles that need to be overcome in effectively changing the culture of a campus?
David: The main challenges are getting buy-in to the strategic significance of the initiative, and having the commitment from the top down to the actual strategy. For example, the Vice Chancellor and senior leaders on campus, the management teams and staff should be involved as well as the leadership of the student body.
Can you give us a brief insight into the Campus Watch experiment you are doing at Otago University?
David: Campus Watch is a commitment to putting 6 mature trained professional staff from a wide variety of backgrounds to work out at all times walking in the student residential quarter with a prime focus on the pastoral care for students. The operation deploys teams of seven 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This requires a team of approximately 40 staff whose selection is based on their prior life experience and ability to engage and enjoy working with students and with the added ability and training to respond to the range of situations that arise in working with young people at all times of the day and night.
What are you hoping to achieve as a presenter at the Campus & Student Security Conference in June in Melbourne?
David: You can’t instigate the kind of change in student culture without making a considerable personal commitment or having the enthusiasm to influence those needed for the success of the initiative. I hope in sharing some of this enthusiasm with the audience, we can move on to help others make significant change for the students in their environment.
David Richardson will deliver a presentation at the 2014 Campus & Student Security Conference, to be held on the 23-24 June in Melbourne. He will be speaking about why we need to focus on Campus Watch instead of security in creating a safer campus environment for the students.