An article in the Daily Camera (Boulder, Col.) features a new requirement of the University of Colorado that requires incoming students to take an online alcohol education course before they arrive on campus in the fall, as part of a larger alcohol education project that will continue during orientation.
The article notes, “Wes Perkins, a director of the Alcohol Education Project at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York, says college programs need to dispel myths that the majority of students are drinking heavily. The effectiveness of educational programs about alcohol is undercut if universities don’t correct the misperceptions surrounding alcohol abuse.”
“Students need a heavy dose of social norms,” he says.
The article adds Perkins “said some universities have woven educational messages about norms into orientation, advertisements and courses,” and the Alcohol-Wise program discussed in the article is among those that address social norms.
Perkins is a graduate of Purdue University, and he received his M.A., M. Div., M. Phil. and Ph.D. from Yale University. He is the author of dozens of journal articles about substance abuse prevention and has been honored with national awards for his work in preventing alcohol and drug abuse in colleges and universities. His work with Professor David Craig is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a premiere model for substance abuse prevention.
The full article follows.
CU-Boulder students required to take online alcohol course
Drinking violations on campus are on a steady decline
Brittany Anas • Camera Staff Writer • July 23, 2011
University of Colorado leaders are telling incoming students they’re required to take an online alcohol education course before the fall semester.
The mandatory online course aims to educate students about dangers surrounding booze. It complements an interactive theater lesson at orientation, a packet sent to parents explaining how they can talk to students about drinking, and late-night movies and games on the campus when school starts to keep freshmen from meandering to parties on University Hill.
Requiring the course makes sense, says incoming student Kelsey Carpenter, who was on the Boulder campus last week for orientation.
“Especially since CU got the No. 1 party school ranking,” she said.
Playboy ranked CU as the nation’s top party school last spring, saying Boulder is a “beer drinker’s paradise.”
Kelsey Carpenter’s mother, Kim Carpenter, said she’s pleased that students will be taking the class because they need to understand facts surrounding alcohol, including how the body metabolizes it.
“The more educated they are, the better they are equipped for situations,” she said.
But Emily Hynes, a transfer student, said students should be waived from taking the course if they haven’t had a drinking or partying problem on their disciplinary records.
There has been a dramatic drop in the number of students sanctioned for drinking violations. During the last school year, CU’s Office of Student Conduct heard 2,648 alcohol-related cases, and 1,449 students were found to be “responsible.” Cases have been on a decline since the 2007-08 school year, when 3,703 cases were heard and 1,893 students were found responsible.
Campus spokesman Bronson Hilliard said the drinking-related cases heard by the conduct office usually stem from a noise complaint at a residence hall that draws attention to a room and results in students being contacted by a resident adviser or police officer. The conduct office then decides who is responsible in the case. That can result in a large number of cases being heard but a large number of students found not responsible, he said.
CU officials in the past have asked new students to take an online “AlcoholEdu” course — and if they took the time to do so, it’d play in their favor if they ever faced sanctions from the Office of Student Conduct for underage drinking. About 900 students — out of a freshman class of about 5,500 — opted against taking the course.
Now, CU has switched to a new program called “Alcohol-Wise for College,” and officials have told incoming students that they need to take the hour-long course.
Peter Caughey, a CU-Boulder spokesman, said CU used AlcoholEdu for three years at a cost of $34,000 annually. Alcohol-Wise will cost CU $12,000 a year.
A student focus group last year overwhelmingly preferred the Alcohol-Wise program over the previous one, said Robin Kolble, who manages Community Health at CU. She said students surveyed said the Alcohol-Wise class is more interactive and fact-based, and the previous program was viewed as laborious.
CU health officials want to squelch the “college effect” of students consuming alcohol 20 percent more once they’ve started college, Kolble said. A few weeks after school starts, the university will require students to take a follow-up course that will gauge whether their drinking behaviors have changed.
Wes Perkins, a director of the Alcohol Education Project at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York, says college programs need to dispel myths that the majority of students are drinking heavily. The effectiveness of educational programs about alcohol is undercut if universities don’t correct the misperceptions surrounding alcohol abuse.
“Students need a heavy dose of social norms,” Perkins said.
He said some universities have woven educational messages about norms into orientation, advertisements and courses.
He said Alcohol-Wise is among the programs that address social norms.
A letter to incoming students from Donald Misch, CU’s associate vice chancellor for health and wellness, said responses are confidential and the university receives information about the student body as a whole without seeing an individual student’s answers.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.