This news release describes past events and should be used for historical purposes only. Please note date of release.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
News Bureau • Schofield Hall 201Eau Claire, WI 54702
phone: (715) 836-4741
fax: (715) 836-2900
UW-Eau Claire Promoting
Alcohol Awareness
MAILED: Oct. 22, 2001

         EAU CLAIRE — Educators at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire have a message for anyone who thinks that all college students drink excessively: You’re wrong.
         In fact, research shows that a majority of UW-Eau Claire students drink in moderation or don’t drink at all. And most students disapprove of those who do abuse alcohol.
         “We need our students — and high school students thinking about college — to know that excessive drinking is not the norm at UW-Eau Claire,” said Sarah Harvieux, university health educator and alcohol education coordinator. “A majority of our students are making healthy choices — they are enjoying their college years without drinking excessively.”
         The Core Alcohol and Drug Survey, completed for the second time in September 2000, found that more than 96 percent of the UW-Eau Claire students surveyed believe that the average student uses alcohol at least once a week. In actuality, fewer than 50 percent of students reported using alcohol once a week.
         “Students — along with everyone else — have misperceptions about the level of student alcohol use,” said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Donald Mash, who chairs the UW System Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Work Group. “Alcohol abuse among students is a serious problem but a majority of our students are drinking in moderation or not drinking. Students are drinking less than is commonly believed.”
         And that message needs to get out because if high school and college students believe that most college students drink excessively, they may feel pressure to join in what they consider to be normal behavior, Harvieux said. The pressure is lessened if people know that drinking moderately or not drinking at all is actually the norm on campus, she said.
         The survey of UW-Eau Claire students also found:
  • 64 percent said their friends would disapprove if they drank five or more drinks in one sitting
  • 74 percent have not missed a class because of drinking
  • 70 percent have never driven while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
  • One-third do not have an alcoholic beverage in a typical week
  • 75 percent report refusing an offer of alcohol or other drugs in the last 30 days

         UW-Eau Claire educators are highlighting the survey and other alcohol-related topics this week as part of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week. A number of information sessions and alcohol-free events are scheduled on campus. And several UW-Eau Claire representatives — including the Chancellor — are participating in a UW System AODA Symposium, which focuses on developing strategic plans for dealing with AODA issues at the institution and system levels.
         While a majority of UW-Eau Claire students are making healthy choices when it comes to alcohol use, alcohol still is the No. 1 health issue for students, said Robert Shaw, associate dean of students. Alcohol is involved in a significant percentage of student misconduct, it plays a role in academic failure, and it contributes to the risk of student injury, arrests and sometimes death, he said, adding that alcohol misuse also creates problems with vandalism, health impairments, unwanted sexual advances/assaults, violence and depression.
         And because alcohol-related problems occur on and off campus, its effects reach beyond campus boundaries.
         “The reality is that we have some control over students and their behavior when they are on campus,” Shaw said. “We have less control when they are out in the community. Our students are like other young adults when they are in the community — it’s up to them to be responsible, to follow the laws. We are limited in the things that we can do to control off-campus behavior.”
         But the university can — and does — support police efforts to aggressively enforce the law, Shaw said, just as the university aggressively enforces the laws and policies that apply to on-campus behavior. “Consistent enforcement of laws and policies — be it on or off campus — is important if we are to send a clear message to students about our unwillingness to tolerate alcohol-related misconduct,” he said, noting that assessment, counseling and treatment also play important roles in the university’s plan to address alcohol-related issues.
         The university is continuing to identify ways to infuse alcohol prevention and education messages into classroom, curriculum and other programming, helping students understand the value of making healthy choices, which includes being a good neighbor and a responsible community member, Shaw said.
         UW-Eau Claire has increased efforts to identify and promote alcohol-free events and activities available to students on and off campus, helping them identify alternatives to house parties, bars and other high-risk environments, Harvieux said. For example, Health Services and University Recreation now create monthly top 10 lists highlighting alcohol-free activities, activities that range from concerts to the climbing wall to free movies and shopping excursions.
         “What’s really exciting is that many of our students are planning events that provide healthy choice alternatives for other students,” Harvieux said, noting that Student Senate leaders are heading the effort to get the city to extend bus service into the late evening hours on weekends, making it easier for students to see late movies at the mall and participate in other alcohol-free community activities.
         UW-Eau Claire’s efforts to address alcohol-related problems are enhanced by Mash’s willingness to discuss the issue, Shaw said. “The Chancellor’s involvement sends the message that prevention is a priority and it reinforces messages delivered in other ways,” he said, noting that Mash speaks candidly with students and parents about alcohol and high-risk behavior during every new student orientation session each summer.
         And Mash’s leadership on the AODA Working Group — a coordinating body for system-wide initiatives and guidance on AODA issues — has been particularly meaningful, Shaw said. It was at the recommendation of the AODA Working Group that the UW System Board of Regents revised UW System alcohol policies earlier this year, requiring that all campuses identify ways to measure who is drinking dangerously and whether efforts to reduce the problem are effective. The policy also requires that each school find ways to ensure that everyone on campus knows about the dangers of excessive drinking.
         “Alcohol abuse among college students is a serious issue that we have been working diligently at for several years,” Mash said. “Some progress has been made but there is still much work to be done as a campus and a System.”
         For more information about Alcohol Awareness Week activities at UW-Eau Claire, contact Harvieux at (715) 836-2001.

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UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
(715) 836-4741

Updated: Oct. 22, 2001