BU Mandates Online Alcohol Course for First-Year Students
Will educate about truths and myths of campus consumption
More than a third (35 percent) of first-year BU students don’t drink alcohol. But many students may not know that, misled by urban myth about universal, Animal House imbibing on college campuses.
This year, the University is requiring first-year students to take an online alcohol course to separate truthful wheat from mythic chaff, starting before they even arrive on campus.
Those students will receive log-in instructions midsummer for AlcoholEdu for College. The course includes two parts: the first, featuring educational material and surveys before and after the material is studied, takes between one and a half and two and a half hours to complete. (It needn’t all be done in one sitting.) Part 2 is a third, 15-minute survey.
In recent years, the University has offered students another online survey, iHealth, to dispel misconceptions, but has not required it. The hope is that through the mandatory course, students will be more responsible about alcohol use.
“It is used by most of our peer institutions as a prevention-level intervention for first-year college students” to curb dangerous drinking, says Elizabeth Douglas, manager of wellness and prevention services at Student Health Services. “We are using AlcoholEdu because it has the capacity to track student completion, in addition to having evidence of its being an effective intervention.”
That evidence comes from a three-year, 30-campus study that found reduced frequency of drinking, including binge drinking, and related problems among students who participated in AlcoholEdu, as compared with students who did not.
Part 1 must be completed before students arrive on campus for the academic year. They will be required to finish Part 2 sometime in October; the University will send them a reminder email. AlcoholEdu is designed to be taken by both drinkers and nondrinking students. The surveys and intersecting information touch on such topics as how many drinks are in a bottle of wine or beer, factors influencing whether people drink, exaggerated notions of heavy drinking on campuses, alcohol’s effects on the body and mind, and tactics students can use to protect themselves and friends from harm in a variety of drinking situations.
The course also provides information for parents about discussions they should have with their children: about alcohol, about its possible effects on schoolwork, and about drinking laws. It asks their views on college alcohol policies, issues they deem important to discuss with their kids, and demographic information about their families. (Parents wanting a demonstration of the program can find it here.)
The new program follows a drop in alcohol-related violations and hospital runs on campus last year, which officials attribute to their recent alcohol enforcement program, entering its third academic year this fall. That program features increased police patrols of known party neighborhoods, dispersing parties, issuing citations, and publishing fall’s enforcement statistics on BU Today.
Meanwhile, a city ordinance allows Boston police to arrest landlords and tenants in so-called problem properties—rentals with four documented complaints of loud parties or alcohol violations.
Douglas says the University likely will use AlcoholEdu in coming years, since BU chooses responsible drinking programs “based on research and evidence of effectiveness.”23 Comments