New hire to bolster alcohol policy

March 12, 2001

Nick Marinello

With a list of recommendations from the 2000 Alcohol Task Force and a new policy regarding drinking in residence halls, Tulane has set upon a path to reduce high-risk drinking among its students. Last month, William Aprill joined the administration as the point person in this effort.

Aprill has been hired to a three-year appointment as executive director of the advisory committee on alcohol policy, an as-yet-to-be-formed group that will succeed the Alcohol Task Force. "The task force has fulfilled its mandate," said Aprill, "and the goal of the advisory committee is to keep the discussion on Tulane's alcohol policy ongoing."

The task force, which was formed last year by President Scott Cowen, made 24 recommendations involving academics, late-hour programming, discipline and policy matters as they pertain to high-risk drinking by students. Subsequent to these recommendations the administration announced a policy change that will prohibit alcohol consumption in residence halls by first-year students under 21 beginning next fall and all students under 21 by fall 2002.

Aprill said he expects the committee to seat 20 members, with a composition that includes 12 students, five faculty, three administrators and "quite a few ex officio members." The group, which Aprill said would meet quarterly, will not be charged with implementing policy, but rather serve as a kind of think-tank. Any faculty interested in participating on the committee should contact Aprill at Implementation of policy will be under Aprill's direct oversight.

While he said that no one single rule or policy change can affect students' attitudes toward drinking or their understanding of the risks involved, a "multi-modal" plan that touches on the breadth of student experience can be effective.

"My job is to follow this issue through the different departments it touches," he said. "In one day I might meet with students, a dean, TUPD, and student government people: everybody must get involved."

Aprill joins Tulane after a career devoted to remediating chemical dependency. Most recently he worked at the DePaul Hospital detox unit, and before that he worked for the Jefferson Parish court system to assist in the mandated treatment of offenders. In 1996, Aprill graduated with an MSW from Tulane's School of Social Work.

"This is the first job that is not purely clinical," he said. "It is not patient-focused. The intervention here takes place on a larger scale and outcomes are measured in a different way. The results won't be known for a while, and I have to temper my need for immediate gratification."

Currently, Aprill has put much of his time into meeting with different faculty. "We will be doing a lot of training for faculty to help them know what to do with students who have alcohol problems," said April, who added that he wants to gain the faculty's impression of problems students may be having. Aprill said that many professors have said that they do not know what signs to look for, while others have admitted to not being comfortable intervening with students whose alcohol and drug problems are apparent. Aprill said he expects to soon begin surveying faculty about their views on the problem.

"Research shows that one of the best ways to get people help is to have them leveraged into treatment by someone in a position of authority," he said. "We hope the faculty will become more at ease with recognizing symptoms of students with drug and alcohol problems and feel more comfortable in intervening with them in a discreet and supportive way."

Aprill said Tulane is applying for a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to acquire funding for educational seminars for faculty. Aprill said that anyone who needs advice on how to help a student with an alcohol or drug problem should contact him.

"Give me a call. If I can't help you, I can send you to someone who can. I don't mind being that kind of clearinghouse."

According to Aprill, the job's biggest thrill is also its most challenging consideration. "This is a brand new position. It is a blank slate and there are no footprints to walk in." He sees his presence on campus, however, as an indicator of the university's commitment to dealing with the problem of alcohol abuse by Tulane students. It's an issue close to his own heart. "It's my job," he said. "It's what I do."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000