#1 Party School to Require Alcohol Course

The University of Colorado at Boulder will require all incoming freshman to take an Internet course about alcohol use and abuse beginning fall semester 2004. Robert Maust, coordinator for the associate vice chancellor for student affairs and principal investigator for A Matter of Degree program, said the university has not made a final decision as to which Internet alcohol use and abuse course will be used. He is currently looking into “Alcohol EDU” and “My Student Body,” both Internet-based alcohol and drug education programs used by universities nationwide. Maust said he hopes the final decision will be made this week. “We are trying to provide a bottom-line common experience for all students,” said Maust. “Then we will be able to say that you know at least that much.” He added that he wants to see if the program will have a positive impact on the behavior of CU students. The Internet course will be customized to fit each student’s knowledge about alcohol use, said Maust. It will start with a survey to find out personal information about the student, such as whether or not the student drinks. The student will also be asked about personal perceptions of alcohol use at college and will receive feedback and educational information based on his or her answers. Options for additional information on the topics of interest will be available to the students through the Internet course, according to Maust. The course will take one to two hours, and will not be credit-based. The student will receive a PIN number for the course from the company that owns the Web site. The Web site will notify the university when the student has completed the course, he said. A student’s answers will be confidential and the university will only receive general statistics about the incoming freshman class’s alcohol use and education level. For example, the course might report that 50 percent of the students say they drink once a week, according to Maust. Maust said the companies supplying online alcohol programs claim that they are effective in positively altering the behavior of 20 to 30 percent of the students participating. “This is an experiment to see if (the program) will work here,” said Maust.Ron Stump, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, initiated the search for an educational alcohol program at CU-Boulder, Maust said. The idea for the program came from surveying other universities such as Florida State, University of Connecticut and Duke University, which all use a similar Internet program. “Alcohol EDU” receives a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to test the program on the ten universities that also receive a grant from the foundation, including CU-Boulder. “Six of the schools are going to use ‘Alcohol EDU,'” said Maust. “This makes (“Alcohol EDU”) more attractive to us because we could compare notes with the other schools.” Some CU-Boulder students are hesitant about how effective the new Internet course will be. “I think it’s a good idea, but I don’t necessarily think it will work,” said sophomore Desiree Lanz. “It should be done, but when (freshmen) get into college they have a whole new sense of freedom and the whole idea of college as a party opportunity. But it might be easier to get over the drinking phase if they have the background for how harmful it is.”A few current freshmen said the Internet program is a waste of time. “It’s the same stuff everyone is force-fed all through high school,” said freshman Quinn Crist-Fulk. “We know binge drinking is bad, but we won’t stop partying every night.” Freshman William Buckley said he thinks the program will have a negative impact on incoming students. “We’ve had all sorts of teaching for the past, like, six or seven years that drinking and drugs are bad,” said Buckley. “I think it will work conversely — making people want to drink. It’s what we do; we rebel.”