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| UW-Eau Claire Alcohol Task Force
Identifies Goals/Action Plans
MAILED: May 8, 2000
A newly created plan designed to encourage college students to make healthy lifestyle choices including limiting alcohol use and reducing the high-risk behaviors related to drinking is the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's most comprehensive effort to-date to address problems associated with students' alcohol abuse, the plan's creators say.
"Alcohol is the No. 1 health issue of college students," said Beth Jansen-Bonde, a health educator at UW-Eau Claire and co-chair of the Alcohol Task Force, a university/student-community group appointed by Chancellor Donald Mash. The task force has spent 18 months gathering information and writing the plan for addressing alcohol issues.
"This plan is aimed at the kind of culture that students experience in Wisconsin," said Robert Shaw, associate dean of students and co-chair of the task force. "High-risk drinking is a part of Wisconsin's culture, and students bring that culture and perceptions about college students and drinking with them when they come to campus."
The plan stresses the importance of promoting healthy lifestyles to continuing and new university students, and helping them understand that they can enjoy their college years without abusing alcohol, Jansen-Bonde said, adding that more assertive approaches to intervention and enforcement also are included in the plan.
Research shows that many high school students believe a majority of university students regularly drink excessively, Shaw said, noting that students often feel pressure to join in what they consider to be normal behavior. But in reality, a majority of UW-Eau Claire's students report that they either drink in moderation or do not drink at all, he said.
"One small part of this comprehensive plan includes strategies designed to educate high school and university students to understand that reality differs from the perception, and to spread the word that many students really are making healthy choices," Jansen-Bonde said. "They need to know that heavy drinking does not need to be a right of passage."
The chancellor's task force has recommended strategies that include UW-Eau Claire students, faculty, staff and administrators, as well as community members, in efforts to reduce high risk drinking behaviors by promoting an environment of wellness, positive reinforcement and encouragement of low risk behaviors. It also identifies ways to include representatives of local agencies, government and businesses.
Examples of strategies included in the plan are:
- Training faculty and staff to convey clear and positive messages about positive social behaviors practiced by a majority of UW-Eau Claire students.
- Encouraging parents to be involved in their children's health and social issues as it relates to alcohol use.
- Hiring a full-time alcohol and other drug prevention educator.
- Working with community groups to encourage healthy choices at community events.
- Establishing a program to provide students with rides home when they're intoxicated.
- Working with the City of Eau Claire to plan for keg ordinance regulation.
- Developing programs to discourage binge-oriented drink specials at local taverns and promotions that encourage sexually oriented contests and behaviors while under the influence of alcohol.
- "The university is a caring place," Shaw said. "Alcohol misuse and the attendant behaviors are real concerns. It's something we want to address."
- Though most UW-Eau Claire students report that they don't engage in high-risk drinking, alcohol is involved in a significant percentage of student misconduct, plays a role in decreased student retention and academic failure, and contributes to the risk of student injury, arrest and sometimes even death, Jansen-Bonde and Shaw said. In addition, alcohol misuse creates problems such as vandalism, health impairments, unwanted sexual advances/assaults, violence among students and depression, they said.
- More than 50 university and community members have worked with the task force to create the plan, which will be presented to Chancellor Mash during a 10 a.m. meeting May 12 in the Tamarack Room of Davies Center at UW-Eau Claire.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: May 8, 2000