Alcohol Wise program produces results in second year

The Class of 2016 is the second group of McDaniel students to experience the mandatory online alcohol education course, Alcohol Wise.

Dean Elizabeth Towle, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, worked with the First Year Team to implement the program, which is intended to raise students’ awareness about college policy and the effects of drinking alcohol.

She said that it will be interesting to compare the results of this year’s program with last year’s, but the class of 2016 will not complete the post-test assessment until 30 days after the beginning of the school year.

Data from last year, however, shows that Alcohol Wise did have an effect on the class of 2015.  On a scale of 0-100, the average pre-test score was 54.  The average post-test score was 80, which shows a significant improvement between prior knowledge versus knowledge after taking the Alcohol Wise course.

“I do think that the Alcohol Wise course is a good resource for students, especially first year students, because they aren’t really familiar with their new independence and I think that knowing the facts about alcohol and the potential risks they may face is really helpful,” said Resident Assistant Becks Shuford.

Even though 25% of first year students reported playing drinking games in the first 30 days of the Fall semester and 12% reported doing something they were later embarrassed about, around 35% of students reported not drinking at all in the first 30 days. In addition, students reported ingesting an average of 3 drinks per week in those first 30 days.

Last year, there were nine fewer alcohol violations across the campus population. There was also was a 17% drop in the number of students transported to the emergency room for alcohol poisoning (15 students in the 2011-2012 year versus 18 the year before).

“Some may say 15 or 18, what’s the big deal?  In my mind, that’s three people that did not put their health in danger,” said Dean Towle.

She also said that she thinks “McDaniel students are really good at getting their friends help when they need it no matter the consequences to themselves because they recognize that getting that friend to help, in that moment, is more important than the consequences that may be for them.”

Alcohol Wise is not the only alcohol education first year students receive. Dean Towle, Dean Beth Gerl, and Michael Robbins meet with first year students during their First Year Seminar flex hours to go over policies, beginning with campus alcohol policies. Resident Assistants (RAs) cover the topic of alcohol use early on in their programming.

Nick Wingreen, an RA in DMC buildings 1 and 2 who worked in Rouzer Hall last year, said that he plans to use the Department of Campus Safety as a resource in his alcohol programming.

“They have goggles that simulate the visual effects of different levels of intoxication, as well as a car rigged to simulate drunk driving,” explained Wingreen.

He believes that Alcohol Wise is a good supplement to Mike Green’s alcohol safety presentation that takes place every year during Orientation.

“I think Mike Green is able to connect with [first year students] in a very real way and the information he shares makes sense to them,” said Dean Towle.

In addition, campus-wide alcohol programming occurs throughout the year, the soonest of which is Alcohol Education Week in October.

Dean Towle noted that alcohol violations have leveled off in recent years, while marijuana use has increased. She said that this might be information to share with Third Millenium Classroom, the company that makes Alcohol Wise. While there is an online drug education course, it is only mandated for students found in violation of college drug policy.

In addition to measuring the change in students’ alcohol awareness, Dean Towle can set the program to ask questions based on campus trends.  Last year, she received feedback on what students were interested in learning about.

There were not many such topics except for intercollegiate athletics and fitness and recreation opportunities.  This information was passed on to the Athletic Department, which is now looking into what exactly students want to be available to them on campus.