Posted on Mar 30, 2006

This past summer, in an effort to address this issue, I initiated a new requirement for first-year students to participate in an on-line course called AlcoholEdu before coming to Orientation. It was designed to educate students about the role alcohol plays in their lives. The College has been using AlcoholEdu as an educational sanction for minor alcohol offenses for several years. While this has been effective, we thought we could do more. The program is an important new initiative that encourages students to consider high-risk activities and consult with their parents on the topic.
AlcoholEdu is a four-part program that focuses on improving the health, safety, and academic performance of students. The first part focuses on what shapes a student's decisions about alcohol. The second part covers facts about alcohol and the effects of drinking. The third part addresses drug interactions, preventing or dealing with overdose, alcohol's role in violence and sexual assault, and intervention techniques. The fourth part, taken after the student arrives on campus, focuses on independent decisions and reviews some of the key material from the program.
Parents can also participate in the course. They play an important role in helping their sons and daughters make good decisions, and they have more influence over their son's or daughter's alcohol use than they realize. We encourage parents to review the program and talk with their child about alcohol before coming to campus.
The goal of AlcoholEdu is to decrease high-risk drinking behavior. We gave students information that empowered them to make well-informed decisions about alcohol and help them better cope with the drinking behavior of their peers. We anticipated that this program would help reduce the number of incidents involving high-risk behavior associated with alcohol. So far this has proven true. During fall term, we saw an encouraging 40 percent reduction in the number of first-year student transports to the hospital for alcohol abuse.
We continue to work with student leaders to address alcohol concerns on campus. U-Program, the campus program board, sponsors popular weekly social events without alcohol. The Student Forum supports over 90 clubs and organizations that sponsor popular non-alcohol activities.
In a recent meeting with the RA's, I learned that this year's first-year students seem to respect their living communities and have taken measures to stop vandalism from taking place in their halls; vandalism is typically associated with alcohol consumption. In the first-year residence hall where we saw the most damage last year, there has been a 39 percent reduction in the amount of vandalism so far this year. The RA's have worked hard to create communities. The first-year students have taken ownership of their living environments and consider their residence halls home-away- from-home.
Still, students consume alcohol. If a student is found in violation of the College alcohol policy, an educational sanction is always imposed. If a student puts himself or herself at risk while consuming alcohol, further sanctions are imposed including service hours and parental notification. If alcohol or other drugs become an overriding theme in a student's life, it is likely that the student will be separated from the College.
While we haven't conquered the alcohol problem on campus, we have certainly made strides toward reducing high-risk behaviors associated with alcohol. Many administrators and student leaders continue to work on this important issue, and we will continue to work toward our goal of having a more knowledgeable and healthy campus.