Instead of being treated like criminals, students caught drinking on campus are being educated, not disciplined.
The Campus Office of Substance Abuse and Prevention (COSAP) is combating underage drinking by requiring guilty students to attend a three-hour seminar about how drinking and drugs can have lasting effects.
Since students caught drinking on campus aren’t given the typical off-campus citation called a “Minor in Possession,” Health educator John Steiner said the class highlights how alcohol and drugs can interfere with day-to-day activities.
“(The class) isn’t so much about ‘Don’t do this,’” he said. “It’s much more about making an informed choice.”
Wednesday’s session, held from 6:30-9:30 p.m., marks the final meeting of the semester. The classes, held throughout the semester, take a two-part approach. An electronic survey, called E-CHUG, asks students how often they drink and possible risk factors that they encounter while under the influence. Answers are then paired with activities that call attention to dangerous aspects of drinking and drug use.
Martin, a student who asked that his last name not be used because of his history with drugs and alcohol, went to COSAP to start a weekly Alcoholics Anonymous program on campus. Martin said COSAP’s non-judgmental approach gives students a safe place to look for help or information.
“The most important aspect of (COSAP) is that you can’t be out there browbeating people prohibition-style, because people are going to do what they are going to do anyway,” Martin said. “To have the services there for people to show up to and get more information or to find out places in the community is beneficial.”
More than 120-150 students are caught drinking on campus every year and are required to attend the class. In recent months, Steiner said, more students have been caught using marijuana, so COSAP will add drug awareness aspects to the class.
Regardless, Steiner said, the organization wants students to understand it’s there for them.
“We don’t label as problem drinkers or alcoholics,” he said. “We want them to have good, unbiased factual information.”