Mar 31st, 2014 @ 10:08 am | Author: Dr. Steve Shirley
The March 21–23 Times-Record lead story focused on the establishment of a “beer pong” league in Valley City. There is undoubtedly much discussion to be had as to whether such a topic merits front-page, above-the-fold attention, but what I want to focus on here are the educational efforts Valley City State University has taken (and continues taking) regarding high-risk alcohol consumption.

VCSU regularly surveys its students to determine their habits of alcohol consumption. From the most recent data (Fall 2012), 87% of students reported they did not feel it was necessary to use alcohol to have a good time, and 30% indicated they do not consume alcohol at all. VCSU’s efforts with alcohol education have focused on responsible decisions and healthy lifestyle choices. VCSU’s alcohol education philosophy has not been on abstinence or suggesting a complete avoidance of alcohol, but rather efforts have been more realistic and centered on choices students make as well as encouraging smart decisions about responsible use of alcohol.

There are countless studies directly linking high-risk behaviors and bad choices by college students to overconsumption of alcohol. Many of these choices directly lead to actions resulting in students not succeeding with their education and ultimately failing academically and dropping out of college. Simply put, these poor decisions can have a very direct and negative correlation with academic success and future career success.

VCSU has taken a proactive role in working to combat some of these matters and partnered with our students about making safe and healthy choices. Dr. Erin Klingenberg, VCSU’s director of counseling services, has led many of these efforts working with students throughout campus. Every new full-time student at VCSU learns the CHOICES curriculum (acronym for Cultivating Healthy Opportunities in College Environments); this program is built on over 20 years of research funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). According to the CHOICES instructor manual, the mission of CHOICES is to educate college students about the effects of alcohol on their behavior, to promote self-evaluation of drinking patterns, and to facilitate the acquisition of effective coping strategies so students can make informed decisions and reduce their alcohol-related risk and harm.

It is important to acknowledge that any underage alcohol use is illegal; it is equally important to provide young people with accurate information and strategies for reducing their risk if they choose to drink alcohol. VCSU has taken the harm reduction approach to prevent college alcohol abuse and reduce both drinking rates and alcohol-related harmful consequences and high-risk behaviors (behaviors that include drinking games such as quarters, beer pong, keg stands, etc.). Beyond CHOICES, education is also provided by VCSU to our students through programs in the residence halls as well as with individual assessments.

There are also many efforts in collaboration with the Campus Activities Board for planning and hosting healthy alternative events on campus and throughout the community for students. These social events provide choices for students while also expanding the extracurricular programming in the evenings and on weekends. Additionally, VCSU has enjoyed a long and positive relationship with the Valley City Police Department, and we work hand-in-hand as needed when/if problems occur.

Alcohol misuse and abuse on college campuses across the United States poses a major threat to the overall potential and academic success rates of students. It is important that campuses continue remaining focused on these issues and working proactively to educate students about their choices and personal responsibilities. VCSU is proud of its efforts in these areas, and the university will continue working on this important matter with current and future students.