A Sobering Education

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Abusing alcohol will now lead to class time and counseling.

UW–Madison officials are hoping a different approach will help students avoid academic problems, legal trouble, and health issues linked to drinking. Under a new initiative, most students who violate university alcohol policies, including being cited for underage drinking or a trip to detox, are now required to take a course on the risks of alcohol abuse.

University Health Services (UHS) estimates about eight hundred to one thousand students will participate in the education program each year. Other college campuses use the same curriculum as the UW, and research shows it is “highly effective in helping eighteen- to twenty-four-year-old students make better alcohol-use decisions,” says Tom Sieger, director of prevention services and campus health initiatives at UHS.

Students must pay for any classes they are required to attend, either $78 for a group class with eight to twelve other students or $200 for one-on-one sessions with a professional substance-abuse counselor.

A chancellor’s group on alcohol policy, which includes representatives from student government and university police, also approved guidelines aimed squarely at ensuring that students seek help in an emergency. Students who aid others, such as by calling 911 for a friend with alcohol poisoning, will not face a citation — even if they have been drinking themselves.

“We want [students] to know that they should come forward if they experience or witness a sexual assault,” says Hannah Somers, chair of the Associated Students of Madison legislative affairs committee. “They should call for help and stay with a person who’s had too much to drink, and they shouldn’t be worried about getting a ticket.”

Published in the Winter 2011 issue

Tags: Health and medicine, Student life, Students

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