Alcohol Education 101

07.14.2005 | Students, Campus and CommunityBefore first-year students have even stepped on campus at the University of Dayton to begin the fall term on August 22, they already will have taken and completed a newly required course.

For the first time, all entering first-year students will be required to take a three-hour alcohol education course, which will be delivered online via Virtual Orientation starting Friday, July 15. Once they arrive on campus, the class will participate in a mandatory "Real Deal About Alcohol at UD" session as part of orientation activities.

Scott Markland, assistant dean of students, says educating the entire first-year class will help increase awareness of the negative impact of alcohol abuse on the college experience, correct inaccurate perceptions about alcohol and its abuse, increase students' motivation to change unhealthy behaviors and build an educational foundation for other initiatives offered during the year.

"Alcohol abuse and associated issues on a college campus are complex and deeply rooted in all aspects of the campus environment," Markland said. "This strategy will aid us in addressing the constant challenge of widely varying expectations and perceptions of incoming students."

In preparing the course, some UD students examined and helped customize some of the questions. Incoming Student Government Association President Drew Navolio believes this is one way to help students take responsibility for their actions and cut back on the need for University enforcement when problems arise.

"When I first started at UD two years ago, I fell into the trap of thinking that everyone understands the dangers of alcohol abuse, but not everyone does," Navolio said. "Taking the initiative to tackle the issue and create a balance is a natural part of all we encompass with our Marianist heritage and mission."

Markland says while this type of project has been effective on other campuses, alone it is not a 'silver bullet.' The effectiveness of the Alcohol Edu course will be enhanced by other targeted strategies the University has put in place over the last few years.

UD's Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention has implemented a peer education program in the School of Engineering with the hope of expanding it campus-wide in the near future.

All first-year engineering majors participated in "CHOICES," an alcohol skills training program presented by upper-class engineering majors. The presentation focuses on the physiological effects of alcohol, motivational strategies and skill-building techniques.

"One strategy that works, regardless of content, is using peers to convey a message, which is what we did in the 'CHOICES' program," Markland said. "Students are much more likely to understand, believe and integrate the concepts when they are presented by a peer."

In addition, UD students can request a special-interest house if they desire a substance-free housing option. Substance-free residence hall rooms, apartments and houses are available on campus.

As for the Alcohol Edu course, faculty, staff and parents are encouraged to take the course and explore ways to reinforce some of the content in interactions with the students.

"We're not anti-alcohol," Markland said. "What we're trying to do is help students make healthier and safer choices should they make the choice to consume alcohol."