April 19, 2011

Fewer first-years drinking their way to the ER

This year has seen a 39-percent drop in the number of first-years sent to the emergency room during fall and winter quarters. The decline follows last year’s record-high number of first-year alcohol-related emergency room visits during the same period, according to Associate Dean of Students Marianne West.

The drop follows the University’s introduction of the online course called AlchoholEdu, which requires all incoming first-years to complete a comprehensive online course on alcohol control. The program includes a series of videos, statistics, and activities on drinking behavior.

The University’s decision to implement the program this year came after an all-time high of 23 first-years were sent to the emergency room for alcohol overdose in the 2009–2010 school year. Through the first two quarters of this academic year, 14 first-year students had been hospitalized in incidents involving alcohol.

“We didn’t know what to expect. We’re never as high as our peer institutions, but we’re certainly grateful to see the drop that we did,” said West, who oversaw the program last year. West also said that the Class of 2015 will be required to complete AlcoholEdu before arriving on campus.

After completing the first segment of AlcoholEdu during the summer, students are required to complete a follow-up segment during fall quarter that includes a series of surveys to reassess academic- and alcohol- related goals made during the summer.

Although students who did not complete AlcoholEdu would have been prevented from registering for classes during Winter Quarter, West said that 100 percent of the class of 2014 completed the program.

The University only tracked hospitalizations among first-year students so that administrators could more directly gauge the program’s impact, according to West.

She added that oversight of the AlcoholEdu program will be transferred to Alex Lickerman, the executive medical director of Student Counseling and Resource Services and the Student Care Center. He will also make the decision to continue AlcoholEdu beyond this year.

In previous years, the only alcohol education that students received came during Chicago Life Meetings. Now, all orientation aides will also have to complete AlcoholEdu before O-Week 2011.

AlcoholEdu was created by Outside the Classroom, a company that produces other health education programs such as Sexual AssaultEdu and MentalHealthEdu. The company’s website reports that AlcoholEdu leads to a proven decrease in student drinking, supported by case studies at Villanova University.