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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Re-Education: Freshmen Drinking Habits Underfire

    Incoming freshman this year are required to participate in the pilot of an online alcohol education program. The freshman will be analyzed on their substance abuse behavior and how it changes before and after taking the course.

    The AlcoholEdu is a national prevention program aimed at institutions by using a Population-Level Prevention method. Entire populations of a particular group of students, in this case first-year students, are assessed on alcohol-related knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. There are more than a quarter of a million students in the program, making it the largest alcohol and college student database.

    Stony Brook is requiring all new students to complete the online course. In addition to freshman, any athlete who fails drug tests is required to take the course, as well as any student who has been written up for violating the campus alcohol policies. Being a freshman, all the students have to take the Freshman 101 Seminar curriculum, which includes one class session on information from the AlcoholEdu course.

    ‘As a peer educator, I have a more educated group of people coming in,’ said Kathleen Flynn-Bisson, Health Service Center peer educator.

    The site features science-based research to educate students about alcohol and its effects. The tutorial has three chapters on alcohol-related content, case studies, and interactive exercises. The first chapter expands upon the family environment and advertisements influencing the attitudes and decisions about drinking. College patterns related to sports and competition are discussed among the general campus culture.

    The second chapter focuses more on how alcohol affects health. Such topics include Blood Alcohol Concentration, brain development, and the general consequences of drinking. The third chapter teaches how to deal with alcohol abuse in social situations and how to make them safe.

    ‘The program also addresses non-drinkers because people need to learn to get along with other kinds of people,’ said Katherine Dillon, a second-year intern at the Student Health Service Center.

    Before taking the online course, participants are asked to fill out a survey about their substance abuse habits, and take a pre-test to determine how educated the student is, coming into college. Then part I must be completed, which covers the first three chapters in about two-and-a-half hours. Following the course, the students must take a test and pass with a grade of 75. If they do not pass, certain parts of the course must be looked over again.

    ‘I already knew most of the information, it wasn’t anything new,’ said freshman Gabriel Urquiza Leibin.

    Part I was introduced over the summer, where each incoming freshman received an access code to sign in online. They had until the beginning of the semester to complete the survey and course. Thirty days into the semester, the participants were asked to complete the fourth and final chapter and refresh what they had learned from the previous three chapters. To see how their behavior and attitude had evolved after passing some time in a college environment, a part II 15-minute survey was taken.

    Eight SUNY schools are participating in this program as well. Final results from the surveys will be released in spring, comparing Stony Brook with other campuses across the nation. Based on results, steps will be taken to address substance abuse issues around campus. ‘There will be a prevention committee with representatives across campus to see how to address the issues,’ said Flynn-Bisson.

    I had seen the program advertised at a Manhattan conference about AlcoholEdu a couple years back, but we didn’t pursue it because of the costs,’ said Ellen Driscoll, project coordinator and substance abuse counselor of the Student Health Service Center. SUNY central in Albany approved the program this year, after processing a grant application. Access to the online program itself costs $37,000. Aside from that, promotional campaigns cost $107,400. These norms cover program design, advertisement posters, flyers, curriculum development, and mailing.

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