1. What is High Risk Drinking?
  2. CU Don’t Know
  3. 10 Tips for Keeping the Conversation Going
  4. Policies and Resources

Carleton University is committed to providing services that support student success both inside and outside the classroom. Promoting and supporting a campus culture of responsible drinking is an important part of this commitment. While the majority of Carleton students who choose to drink do so responsibly, there is still room for improvement. Our goal is to reduce the prevalence of high risk drinking practices and to increase the number of students who are knowledgeable about alcohol engage in responsible drinking behaviors.

Even as your student becomes increasingly independent, you remain a key influence on their attitudes when it comes to alcohol. You can support our efforts in encouraging responsible decision making by talking to your student about alcohol use before they arrive on campus and by keeping this conversation going even after the academic year starts.

What is High Risk Drinking?

High risk drinking refers to consuming alcohol in a way that increases the risk of negative consequences. The standard threshold for assessing high risk drinking is 5 or more standard drinks per occasion. When consumed over the course of a couple hours this is often referred to as binge drinking.

In Canada, high risk drinking is most common among young adults (18-24 years of age.) Rates of alcohol use and alcohol-related risks are higher among post-secondary students in general and first-year students in particular. Men tend to practice high risk drinking at higher rates than women, but rates among young adult women are on the rise.

Learn more about Carleton University’s commitment to increasing Alcohol Awareness on campus:

  • CU Don’t Know
  • 10 Tips for Keeping the Conversation Going
  • Policies and Resources

CU Don’t Know

Alcohol Awareness at Carleton University

CU Don’t Know is a social norms marketing campaign launched as part of Carleton’s Alcohol Awareness Strategy. Because peer opinion has a significant influence on student drinking practices, the campaign emphasizes student rather than administrative voices.

The campaign’s tagline, “This is not an anti-drinking campaign,” reflects its focus on harm reduction by giving students the resources they need to make responsible alcohol-related decisions for themselves, whether or not they choose to drink.

Harm Reduction

Providing students with the information they need to better handle difficult situations or avoid them entirely has been shown to both reduce their alcohol use and result in fewer alcohol-related consequences.

Why is CU Don’t Know a social norms marketing campaign?

Research shows that university students think their peers drink more (in both quantity and frequency) than they actually do.

  • Students who have exaggerated perceived norms are more likely to engage in high risk drinking
  • Moderate drinkers may feel pressured into high risk drinking because they believe it is expected of them
  • High risk drinkers may not see their behavior as problematic because they believe everyone else is doing the same thing too
  • Light drinkers and abstainers may feel alienated from campus social life because they perceive themselves as being outside the norm

So what is the norm?

  • 68% of Carleton students are non-binge drinkers
  • 84.2% of Carleton students drink less than 10 days per month
  • 17% of Carleton students don’t drink at all

Regardless of the actual norm, almost 60% of Carleton students think that their peers drink 10 days or more per month. Actually, only 15.7% of students use alcohol that frequently.

*This data is taken from the National College Health Assessment, 2016

10 Tips for Keeping the Conversation Going

Talking to your student about responsible drinking

  1. Stay connected, ask questions and listen with an open mind:
    • How are you doing?
    • How do you like your classes?
    • What’s residence life like?
    • What do you do for fun?
    • What can we do to help?
  2. Define your expectations and encourage your students to set goals for themselves.
  3. Talk to your student about finding the right balance between their studies and their social life.
  4. Know the facts. The most effective conversations will be based in evidence, not hype.
  5. Go beyond the negative consequences and discuss techniques for how to act more assertively when it comes to alcohol:
    • How do you decide if you are going to drink or not?
    • What will you do if your roommate only wants to drink and party?
    • What does responsible drinking mean to you?
    • Do you know where to go for help on campus if you need it?
    • Do you know what alcohol poisoning looks like and how to respond?
  6. Share your own experiences, positive and negative, without embellishment.
  7. Remind them they have a right to a safe and livable environment.
  8. Familiarize yourself with the rhythm on the academic year: start.carleton.ca
  9. Offer your support and guidance.
  10. Encourage them to get involved.

Policies and Resources


Your student should be aware of the following policies. However, a gentle reminder from you is also a good idea. You can use these policies as a starting point for a conversation about personal responsibility and your respective expectations for your student’s conduct.

  • Make your own expectations for your student’s behaviour clear.
  • Have an open conversation about how the parent/child relationship will change. Emphasize that your student will now be responsible for making many of their own decisions and for dealing with the consequences of these decisions, but that you are here to listen and to provide support.
  • Discuss how personal responsibility includes respecting the rights of other community members (e.g. privacy, property, study, sleep, physical and emotional health, etc.).


  • The Student Rights and Responsibilities Policy governs non-academic behaviour on campus (including misconduct related to the use of alcohol).
  • All students who live in residence sign a Residence Contract which outlines their responsibilities as residents including issues related to the consumption of alcohol.
  • The Carleton University Alcohol Policy outlines the University’s rules regarding the marketing, advertising, and service of alcohol on campus. Carleton’s policy has been recognized as an example of institutional best practice.
  • Ontario’s Liquor License Act: The LLA governs the sale and consumption of alcohol. In Ontario, the legal age for purchasing and consuming alcohol is 19. This also applies to Carleton where persons under the age of 19 may not purchase, obtain, possess, or consume alcohol anywhere on campus (including residence).
  • Ontario Ministry of Transportation: Did you know Ontario has some of the toughest impaired driving laws in North America? This includes a Zero BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) law that applies to all drivers under the age of 21.


As a parent, you are often the first person a student turns to when they need advice and this can be equally true when it comes to alcohol-related issues. Familiarizing yourself with the available resources will be help you point them in the right direction.

The Transition Guide is a great starting point for learning more about how you can support your student throughout their university experience. This guide covers such information as the academic calendar; important dates and deadlines; the student clock; staying healthy; and the release of information. Interested in keeping up to date on what’s happening at Carleton? Subscribe to the Carleton Parent newsletter.

  • CU Don’t Know: This campaign attempts to correct perceived norms about the drinking habits of Carleton students and provides students with various responsible drinking strategies. You might find the “Drinking 101” and “What is Everyone Else Doing?” features particularly useful in starting a conversation with your student.
  • e-CHUG (electronic Check Up to Go): e-CHUG is an anonymous online tool that provides feedback on your alcohol consumption. Not only is it quick (it only takes about 10 minutes!), it generates a personal BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) chart, helps you track how much money you are spending on alcohol, and shows how your drinking habits compare to the Carleton, provincial, and national averages. Feel free to complete the quiz yourself and discuss what you learn with your student.
  • TAO Self-Help provides self-directed modules and practice tools to help students learn positive skills for personal growth.
  • Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse: Canada’s Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines promote a culture of moderation with the intention of reducing occurrences of immediate and long term alcohol-related harms.
  • Government of Canada: The Healthy Canadians entry on alcohol includes useful information and resources regarding the long-term and short-term health effects associated with alcohol abuse, responsible drinking practices, and responsible hosting practices.
  • Health & Counselling Services: Health and Counselling Services provides specialized services to meet the needs of Carleton students as well as basic medical and walk-in services. This includes confidential personal counselling both at the clinic and via a satellite office in Residence Commons (for students living in residence).
  • University Safety: It is important that your student know how to contact University Safety in the event of an on-campus emergency.
  • Student Affairs: Student Affairs has prepared a useful guide for students coping with stress or crisis. Included is a more comprehensive guide to on-campus resources which you may helpful in encouraging your student to access the appropriate support services (e.g. academic, health and wellness, etc.).