CSU attempts to curb alcohol abuse by creating programs

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First-time college students who struggle with the decision to drink alcohol will be offered advise from various on-campus programs about the risks of drinking.

Programs, such as Social Norms and peer educators like those in Alcohol, Learning, Education, Resources and Training, warn students about alcohol consumption prior to its use.

“It’s safe to say that we concentrate more on the younger students,” said Susan R. Cohen, assistant director of health promotions at the Klotz Student Health Center and chair of the “Social Norms” campaign. “Adjustment for new students can be difficult and some start drinking to fit in.”

“We just want to show them that not all students drink,” she also said.

The Social Norms committee, headed by a division of the Student Affairs, works with both Klotz Student Health Center and Student Housing, and is made up of mostly resident advisors, housing staff and the health center’s staff.

Through a campus-wide survey, the committee found that students don’t drink as much as is perceived by many people.

Social Norms’ most recent campaign, “Most Know,” reaches students through posters, memorabilia and their website www.mostknow.com.

The campaign targets freshman and student housing residents because they are the most at risk of abusing alcohol, Cohen said.

After the death of an 18-year-old fraternity member at Cal State Chico in 2000, California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed decided that with grants from private and state sources, campuses in the CSU system must have alcohol policies and prevention programs to reduce unhealthy drinking problems.

The 2005 CSU Alcohol Policies and Prevention Program’s Second Biennial Report shows that the Office of Traffic Safety funded ten CSU campuses totaling $750,000 for 2005 and 2006 to reduce drinking and driving and other alcohol-related misconduct.

The CSU Board of Trustees’ alcohol policy mandates that CSU campuses must have programs such as Social Norms. The program is used at CSU Fresno, CSU Sacramento, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Cohen said the Social Norms message targets student housing residents and those involved in the Greek system because they are social groups outside of the academic atmosphere of a campus.

Ryan Arciaga, senior CTVA major, lives in the dorms and said he can pin-point illegal drinking.

“Building 13 is where the police hang out,” said Arciaga. “The further away from this building, the more drinking there is.”

According to the Residential Life policies, students of drinking age are allowed to possess alcohol as long as it is behind the closed doors of their apartments, and not in large quantities.

Within student housing, any student can document any other student’s activities and resident advisors do rounds, said Melissa A. Giles, associate director for Residential Life, Student Housing and Conference Services.

“Last year there was an increase of documentations, not specifically because of more drinking, but because there was a shorter turnaround time between the documentation and when something actually gets done,” Giles said.

Despite some documented cases of alcohol activities by students on campus, CSUN also offer other programs to curb drinking habits.

Alcohol Learning Education Research Training is a state-mandated alcohol-abuse prevention program that does not concentrate on any specific groups.

“We provide presentations to classrooms, outside church fairs, student health fairs, Freshman orientations, sororities and fraternities,” said Kristen Fogel, ALERT coordinator, and senior communications major.

ALERT is run by students and is for students. The presentations cover facts about drinking and drugs, knowledge of laws, and provides referrals to ongoing treatment for students that need it, said Cohen, who is also the advisor to ALERT

However, some CSU campuses are trying to curb drinking by force.

Nevertheless, the programs used at CSUN do not condemn drinking.

“We do not use abstinent-based programs. We don’t take a ‘just say no’ approach. We just want to help students make wise decisions by providing them with the right tools to find their own personal guidelines,” Cohen said.

Ariana Rodriguez can be reached at arian.rodriguez@csun.edu.