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Course offers parental insight

October 5, 2006

Alcohol use on a college campus is nothing new – but even more serious is that the problem isn’t being solved, despite the efforts of Student Health Services (SHS).

As part of its efforts against alcohol usage, SHS has developed an online course for parents to help them talk to their students about drinking, which was launched this past August. 

Information provided to parents on Desire2Learn states that the purpose of the online seminar is to provide information to parents so that they can help students make responsible decisions about drinking. 

“In a recent assessment, a vast majority of UW-RF students indicated that they are likely to seek advice on health-related issues from their parents and trust the information their parents give them,” said Blake Fry, dean of student development and campus diversity, at the beginning of the seminar. “For that reason, it is critical that you [parents] are well-versed on the current trends related to and consequences of alcohol use by college students.”

The online course for parents addresses the issue of drinking on campus in depth. It discusses topics ranging from why students drink to how they obtain their alcohol to what consequences the acts of excessive or underage drinking may incur.

In March 2005, the University’s Coalition on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs (CATOD) conducted a survey, which found that 50 percent of students engaged in binge drinking during a period of 30 days. This is compared to 2003 when 39 percent of students engaged in binge drinking over a period of 30 days—on par with 39.1 percent of students nationally.

This substantial increase in the drinking habits of students is enough to be significant, but not enough to shock students.

“This [increase] doesn’t surprise me,” said student Brittany Engler. “I don’t think a lot of students know how to control their drinking habits.”

The survey also found that 59 percent of UW System students engaged in binge drinking compared to 54 percent nationally, and 72 percent of UW-RF students consumed alcohol on one or more of the past 30 days—compared to 78 percent of students in the UW System.

The Annual Campus Crime Report, released by Public Safety on Sept. 28, stated that in 2005 there had been 223 liquor law violations in the residence halls, which grew from 203 violations in 2003.

“The Monday after I moved in [two years ago], there were drinking citations on all of the doors,” student Greg Lund said. “That’s the first thing students want to do when they get to college.”

A brochure provided by SHS discussing binge drinking defines the act: “Drinking a lot in a short amount of time; drinking a lot…period; reaching a very high blood alcohol level; consuming five or more drinks in a row one or more times in a 2 week period.” 

Unfortunately, this programming appears to have a stronger enemy than alcohol abuse—inaccurate perception.

The survey found that most students predicted that 99 percent of students on campus consumed alcohol regularly, when—in actuality— 72 percent of students on campus had consumed alcohol in February or March. 

The CATOD has set goals, which it had hoped to achieve by 2007. These goals include having a binge drinking rate no higher than 46.5 percent – a necessary 3.5 percent decrease — and having a greater student and staff involvement in alcohol prevention.  In 2004, 65 percent of students didn’t know there were prevention education programs on campus.

SHS is working to complete the goals set by the coalition with a variety of brochures and a simulated house party to educate students about the risks associated with drinking.  Birthday cards are also sent to students turning 21 to encourage them to celebrate responsibly.