University uses new approaches to address student drinking
By Clara B. Cox
Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 02 - September 3, 1998
In response to growing concern about alcohol abuse by college students and in the wake of five student alcohol-related deaths in Virginia last year, Virginia Tech has incorporated several new approaches to address student drinking both on and off campus and has already taken steps to address the recommendations of the Attorney General's Task Force on Drinking by College Students.
According to Landrum L. Cross, vice president for Student Affairs, over 4,000 copies of the CD-ROM "Alcohol 101" were distributed to each residence-hall room, probably the largest distribution of the interactive CD-ROM at any university in the country. Developed by the University of Illinois in cooperation with The Century Council, a national anti-alcohol-abuse organization, "Alcohol 101" provides physiological, psychological, and legal information to help college students make responsible decisions about alcohol consumption.
During the summer, students attending orientation saw a newly developed video that includes alcohol issues. "The video was designed to appeal to this age group and was well received by the students," Cross said.
Additionally, University Unions and Student Activities, Student Government Association, and Graduate Student Assembly of Virginia Tech will join the Radford University student government in erecting a billboard on Route 114, the scene of several deadly car wrecks caused by drunken college drivers in recent years. The billboard will remind students not to drink and drive.
In response to the report issued by the attorney general's task force, Cross appointed a Student Affairs Advisory Committee on Student Alcohol Use to determine the extent of high-risk drinking on campus, to identify various alcohol programs and activities designed to reduce high-risk drinking, and to provide feedback on the effectiveness of campus alcohol programs and activities in reducing high-risk drinking.
Cross will use the information gathered by the committee in preparing Virginia Tech's foundational plan to reduce binge and illegal drinking. The plan, required of each Virginia college and university by the task-force report, must address the education of students on the health-and-safety hazards of alcohol use, Virginia's alcohol laws, and campus alcohol policies and penalties for violations; enforcement of the school's alcohol policies and Virginia alcohol laws; intervention efforts to assist students with serious alcohol problems; and the review, analysis, and evaluation of the effectiveness of the plan. The plan is due Jan. 1, 1999, but Cross said he would have it ready for review by the Board of Visitors at its November meeting.
The task force also issued 56 recommendations designed to combat binge and illegal drinking. "The attorney general's task force calls for a number of things that Virginia Tech is already doing, some that will be easy for us to implement, some that can be implemented if resources are made available, and some that we will want to study before deciding whether to implement them at all," Cross said.
During the 1998-99 academic year, Student Affairs will remind students of the health and safety hazards of alcohol use, Virginia's alcohol laws, the university's alcohol policy, and the penalties for violations via ads in the Collegiate Times. The university will also extend the hours of Squires Student Center and McComas Hall until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights on an experimental basis to provide additional hours of alcohol-free activities.
Among the other approaches to reduce illegal alcohol use by students will be additional entertainment programs on Thursday nights to offer alternatives for students who prefer not to go to off-campus bars. The University Counseling Center and the Student Health Service will increase intervention efforts for students with substance abuse problems and those who violate the university's alcohol policy. The center and health service will also provide consultation and training for faculty members in identifying and referring students with substance abuse problems. And efforts are under way to create rewards and incentives for alcohol-free Greek social events.
Cross said that Student Affairs is also preparing proposals to governmental and private agencies to seek grant funding to address alcohol abuses by college students.