Inebreation 101

We get it. The University is on the warpath against irresponsible drinking at UVM. No doubt, the trends are alarming. Within the past years, there has been a noticeable rise in the amount of students who have experienced the negative consequences of binge drinking, defined by most authorities as having more than four to five drinks a night. The school administration responded to these trends by implementing the dry campus policy, not allowing any alcoholic beverages on campus, even if the person possessing the alcohol is 21 or older. The newest addition to UVM’s fight against alcohol came at the beginning of the summer, when incoming freshmen received a surprise in their newly created UVM email accounts: a mandatory invitation to participate in a program called AlcoholEdu. For those of you who will be graduating before 2010, and therefore will not be saved from the clutches of binge drinking, AlcoholEdu is a three-hour online course that through friendly narrations, quirky case studies, and gimmicks like personalized feedback, aims to deter participants from drinking their way into the insurmountable problems that come from alcohol abuse. Sounds like a good idea. After all, we can all agree that habitual drinking of alcohol can be problematic on numerous fronts. But here’s how they did it all wrong. The implementation of AlcoholEdu was a mess from the start. Instead of discussing the program with students at orientation in June, freshmen were sent a simple email, setting the due date for the first three-hour section of the course some time in mid July. Huh? Every facet of UVM life was explained in excruciating detail at freshman orientation, why would they fail to so much as mention this required course? Was this a joke? The program is supposedly required, but there are no consequences for not completing it. The school actually expected students to complete this surprise course over the summer, and take it seriously. Graduated high school seniors are busy over the summer. They have to get as much time in with their friends as they can, they have summer jobs, not to mention the stress of preparing for college. Some go away for the summer and have no or limited Internet access. The last thing anyone wants to do is a three hours alcohol education course that has no consequences for not completing it. Vivian De Jesus Garay, the Assistant Dean for Retention and Assessment Division of Student and Campus Life, admits, “We get that it’s a potential burden. I think we can do a better job.” So, what about students who actually gave AlcoholEdu a chance and paid attention to the course? Freshmen were disappointed to find that most of the information in AlcoholEdu had already been relayed to them in high school and middle school through health class and programs like Drug Abuse Resistance Education. “A lot of it I knew already through experience and school,” says Dylan Moorhead, a freshman who took AlcoholEdu over the summer. “What I didn’t already know, I didn’t need to know.”An incoming class’s first impression of UVM should not be a monotonous, repetitive waste of time like AlcoholEdu. Freshman Kait Smith said, “Half the people who took it don’t even pay attention. if you want it to matter, don’t make it a short online course.” It is not within the University’s ability to change student opinions about alcohol. We college students are at an age and are in an environment where we are open to challenging the social norms that exist in our lives. The school administration, being aware of this, jumped on the opportunity to get students to challenge their views about alcohol. The University forgot that while we are open minded and ready to learn, we are not ready to be preached to about something so prevalent in our lives yet so separated from academics as alcohol. Drinking is not a subject like sociology or political science, where we are interested in hearing what our authority figures have to say. Alcohol falls more along the lines of cigarette smoking and eating disorders. Yes, it happens on campus, but no, we do not want to hear what the school has to say about it. College is an institution of academic growth and learning. It is not a place for active social molding of those who attend.