USC joins coalition to increase alcohol safety

USC joined the Alcohol Prevention Coalition this summer in an effort to expand educational information and research regarding alcohol use by college students.

The goal of the Alcohol Prevention Coalition partnership is to further develop AlcoholEdu, an online alcohol safety class required for incoming freshmen that USC used for seven years.

The Alcohol Prevention Coalition, sponsored by Outside the Classroom, hopes to improve AlcoholEdu by researching and identifying new methods of encouraging responsible drinking habits.

“We hope joining the Alcohol Prevention Coalition will help USC keep up with the latest thinking and strategies about how to encourage students to use alcohol responsibly,” said Michael Jackson, vice president of student affairs.

Paula Swinford, director of Health Promotion and Prevention Services, said the initial task of the Alcohol Prevention Coalition is to implement two new programs: GreekLifeEdu and AlcoholEdu for Sanctions.

GreekLifeEdu, a program that is already being used by many nationwide fraternities and sororities, is targeted at students who participate in Greek life and addresses issues that are unique to those communities.

According to Swinford, this program focuses on sexual violence, alcohol abuse and hazing.

“The Greek council is really excited about this because it allows them to set an agenda and expectations with new members so that everybody gets the same message and understands the context of being Greek at USC,” Swinford said.

Though AlcoholEdu and GreekLifeEdu are primarily prevention tools targeted at students who have not had past issues with drinking, AlcoholEdu for Sanctions was created for students who have had negative consequences related to alcohol.

In the past, HPPS has scheduled one-on-one meetings with students who have had difficulty with alcohol or drug abuse. Last year, 280 students were referred to the drug education program.

With AlcoholEdu for Sanctions, students will have to complete an online course instead of having one-on-one meetings with faculty members at HPPS.

“What we realized is that there is a much more convenient tool online,” Swinford said.

In addition to these new programs, USC will now be able to participate in biannual research summits and communicate with other schools regarding issues of alcohol abuse.

“We will see what other colleges and universities are doing, share information and try out new ideas for teaching students about how to have fun, party and socialize without alcohol being at the center of these activities,” Jackson said.

Swinford said she believes students will be receptive to this new initiative.

“There are students in leadership that we have talked to about this and the general feeling is a positive one,” she said.

Jordan Merimee, a sophomore majoring in theater, said the most important aspect of creating this new program is making sure it is implemented effectively.

He said he believes USC should focus on the social aspect of drinking and how that can lead to alcohol abuse.

“AlcoholEdu doesn’t really express how widespread drinking is on a college campus,” he said.

Shelbie Bartholomew, a sophomore majoring in creative writing, said she believes AlcoholEdu provided her with helpful information when she took the course before her freshman year.

She said she is hopeful that by joining the Alcohol Prevention Coalition, USC students will be able to better understand the consequences of their actions.

“I don’t know if this will stop drinking, but it might keep people more informed about what they are doing,” Bartholomew said.

For now, these programs are the only scheduled changes taking place on campus in regard to alcohol education. However, Swinford said there is always a chance that new initiatives will begin in future years.

“We do look at our data and try to address the things that are unique to USC,” she said. “I let the data drive the next decision.”