A Network of Support for Our Students

We recently welcomed 4,600 freshmen to the University of South Carolina. We've been anticipating their arrival for months. Summer visitors have seen the visual cues: the bustle of carpenters, the artistry of new brickwork, the brush of paint on wrought iron. What our visitors could not see was the intense preparation of both faculty and staff as they thoughtfully crafted a student environment that offers academic success and personal transformation.

Research tells us that the first six weeks of our freshmen's lives on campus set the tone for the future. There is a built-in tension as they learn to balance new freedoms with new responsibilities. During my convocation speech, I give them a few healthy tips. I encourage them to walk Carolina's 450 acres. I remind them to take advantage of our exceptional wellness and fitness centers. I suggest that they eat well, exercise and also sleep well. We then introduce our students to the Carolinian Creed. It begins, "The community of scholars at the University of South Carolina is dedicated to personal and academic excellence. Choosing to join the community obligates each member to a code of civilized behavior." Indeed, they are obligated, not only to USC's community of more than 30,000 students, but also to the greater Columbia community. Both have high expectations.

USC shares widely its beliefs and values in our own Carolinian Creed. It is worth repeating the lines, "Choosing to join the community obligates each member to a code of civilized behavior." To this end, I see great hope for the year ahead as our students live as Carolinians, by our code.

While the conversation begins at convocation, I am fortunate that I have many experts to continue the dialogue. Of course, our primary focus is personal and academic excellence. We also recognize that students often struggle to make smart decisions regarding alcohol and drugs. I'm proud that USC continues to lead in this arena with a series of early education and prevention programs designed to inform, engage and provoke deeper reflection. AlcoholEdu, for example, is an online program that provides a series of articles and quizzes to educate students about alcohol use and abuse. All incoming and transfer students younger than 25 are required to complete this program.

During University 101, our nationally recognized seminar for first-year students, freshmen discuss responsible use of alcohol while also examining the dangers and consequences of risky behavior and poor judgment — which often happens while a student is under the influence. They soon realize they have an obligation to "stand up" and, as an example, confiscate car keys when a friend is impaired. Greek fraternities and sororities and members of the 400 clubs on campus also attend seminars and alcohol policy workshops. All of our Carolina students learn that there are not only health consequences but serious monetary and academic sanctions for infractions.

Community networking through the creation of the Carolina Community Coalition, composed of USC offices, police departments, Five Points and Vista vendors, the S.C. Beer Association, My Carolina Alumni Association, campus ministers, neighborhood associations and more, has also had a positive impact.

In addition, USC Health Services remains watchful for students who might be susceptible to depression. We recently provided extensive training so that students, faculty and staff are able to recognize depression's signs. Some students are reluctant to discuss health issues. For them, anonymous screening tools are available online. Students can continue to engage with online counselors or choose in- person, one-on-one or group counseling. As we strive for strong mental health, we provide suicide and psychological experts to help those in need. Our best defense, however, is found in programs like USC Connect, where students are engaged in meaningful service learning, international experiences, internships, undergraduate research and more.

Although students are actually the safest when on college campuses, we remain vigilant. USC's Sgt. Kenny Adams talks with student organizations about sense and caution. Shuttle services are available for extended hours to all campus locations and 250 call boxes are on campus should an emergency arise.

USC shares widely its beliefs and values in our own Carolinian Creed. It is worth repeating the lines, "Choosing to join the community obligates each member to a code of civilized behavior." To this end, I see great hope for the year ahead as our students live as Carolinians, by our code.

These first six weeks are critical. I am grateful for the diligent and constant work at the university and for our partnership with the Columbia community. While each student is ultimately responsible for his or her actions, we are all here to do whatever we can to help them make wise and appropriate choices.