Is AlcoholEdu Enough to Curb College Binging?

The American Psychiatry Association released an article last August stating that four out of five college students drink, and forty percent of these students drink heavily. Perhaps it is because of this dangerously high statistic that St. John’s and hundreds of other colleges across the country have turned to AlcoholEdu for a solution. The online prevention program was implemented this summer for all incoming freshmen.

By collecting surveys from each student about their drinking patterns and overall knowledge of alcohol, the course is customized for each individual so that they may obtain the maximum benefits from the program. The online course is designed to accomplish five things, according to the Outside the Classroom Website: motivate behavior change, reset unrealistic expectations about the effects of alcohol, link choices about drinking to academic and personal success, help students practice safer decision-making and engage students to create a healthier campus community.

Data found on the website shows that a percentage of students who completed the program in Summer and Fall of 2005 said they gained more practical knowledge and were more motivated to change their behavior. If this course can convince students to rethink hitting the bottle every weekend and make them realize the potential dangers of habitual drinking, then it must be successful to an extent.

Still, the temptation may prove too strong to sway the vast majority of students.
The problem lies largely with tradition; drinking has been the stereotypical way of college life for as long as any of us can remember. College is a time when students enter adulthood, breaking away from the rules that bound them as kids, and figuring out how to cope with lots of stress.

Nowadays, college has also been identified with adventure – such as not getting caught with a beer when under the legal age.
It is unfortunate that the majority of students feel that this is the true “college experience,” but the reality is, in many cases, it will not matter what preventative measures a university may take. If a freshman walks into college with the intention to get drunk, he or she is going to do it, no matter what it takes.

Freshmen may also be turned off to the program right from the get-go, convinced that there is nothing they can be taught about alcohol prevention that they have not already heard before. Students have been hearing the same statistics over and over about the dangers of drinking, to the point where they have probably become immune to it. Even though this program offers a fresh perspective, with up-to-date information and personalized data for each individual, the word “prevention” alone is going to create the notion that this is yet another stale program that will offer no new information and be a complete waste of time.

It may prove to be more beneficial if students were not taught to completely abstain from alcohol. The more it is discouraged, the more they are likely to do it. The University should certainly not condone underage drinking; however, it should encourage students to take certain precautions when they do decide to drink. Explain the repercussions of what could happen while under the influence or if caught drinking. Invite guest speakers who suffered from these consequences to come and talk to the freshmen. This can all be done at a Freshman Forum, perhaps during Orientation. St. John’s is definitely taking a step in the right direction; the Alcohol Basics lecture held last March was a great idea because it explained critical issues such as DWI and alcohol poisoning.

Due to the claimed “success” of AlcoholEdu, it seems as if it is here to stay. While it will keep some students informed and motivate them to practice safe habits, the program will never prove completely successful. Ultimately, students are going to exercise their free will, regardless of what some online course may tell them.