U-M nationally recognized for sexual assault and alcohol abuse prevention efforts

Friday, June 29, 2018 - 8:17pm

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Alexis Rankin/Daily

The University of Michigan was awarded two Prevention Excellence Awards by the Campus Prevention Network in recognition of the University’s efforts in sexual assault and alcohol abuse prevention.  The annual meeting was held on June 8 in New Orleans.

The Campus Prevention Network supports large college campuses across the United States in their efforts to address health and safety challenges including sexual assault and high-risk alcohol consumption.

“By providing innovative research, proven and promising prevention strategies, and opportunities to engage and benefit from the collective wisdom of peers, the Campus Prevention Network is uniquely positioned to help campuses make breakthrough progress on the critical health and safety issues impacting the lives of our students, staff, and faculty,” the Campus Prevention Network mission statement says.

In being recognized by both awards in the same year, the University stands out as one of the institutions at the forefront of sexual assault and alcohol abuse prevention.

“Of the 133 colleges and universities that have completed the sexual assault inventory and the 112 that have completed the alcohol inventory, fewer than 10 percent earned the distinction of being a Prevention Excellence Award honoree,” according to The University Record.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald stressed the importance of these issues and expressed the gratitude the University feels in being recognized for its efforts.

“Sexual assault and alcohol abuse are two very important issues facing college students across the nation,” Fitzgerald said. “For U-M to be recognized on the national level for its prevention education and programming is a real honor.”

Fitzgerald also pointed out that it is the people who work hard in making the University a safe place for everyone that ultimately deserve the credit for their work.

“It's important recognition of the commitment of our staff, faculty and students involved in this ongoing work to educate our community on ways to reduce harm and improve safety of the Ann Arbor campus community,” Fitzgerald said

These efforts include the Community Matters programs, which all incoming students must complete. These programs provide students with information and learning opportunities concerning alcohol and other drugs, sexual assault, healthy relationships, bystander intervention and campus policies and resources.

The University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center is dedicated to fostering a respectful and safe environment for all members of the University’s community. The staff and student volunteers engage in programs that support those who have been impacted by sexual assault, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment and stalking.

"These awards remind us that our work to create healthy and safe communities takes intention, dedication and collaboration," SAPAC Director Kaaren Williamsen said in a University Record article. "Our partnerships throughout Student Life, and collaborations with students, student organizations, faculty, staff and community partners, are key to making sure our programs are effective and responsive to the needs of our campus."

University Health Service dedicates much of their time to alcohol abuse prevention and participates in many programs, including Stay in the Blue and BASICS-IMEP. BASICS-IMEP Director Marsha Benz, who is also a motivational interviewing trainer and UHS Planet Blue lead, commented it was nice to receive validation for their efforts and that it would inspire their work going forward and continue to engage with the community. 

“It is very meaningful. The award acknowledges the efforts of so many people who care a tremendous amount about having a vibrant and healthy community,” Benz said. “Our efforts in alcohol prevention and early intervention wouldn't be possible without colleagues and students across campus, as well as other stakeholders in Ann Arbor, who are committed to using a holistic well-being approach to addressing these issues.”

Benz also stated this work is never completely finished and her team looks forward to continually improving the campus community’s safety through their programs.

“Unfortunately, issues with alcohol and other drugs will always be part of our community,” Benz said. “We’ll continue to use campus-specific data and evidence-based practices and look for innovative technologies and other ideas to reduce harm from alcohol on our campus. We will also continue to get important student input on the work we do through focus groups, surveys, interviews and conversations. Our goal is to treat students with respect and non-judgement no matter where they fall on the continuum of alcohol or drug use, and we're humbled by the very positive feedback we receive. We believe our student focus is the reason we can do our work well.”

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