UND requiring alcohol educationWhen Brittany Hillerud sets foot on the University of North Dakota campus this fall, university officials believe she and her fellow freshmen will be more aware of the dangers of alcohol than previous classes.
By: By Chris Bieri , Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
When Brittany Hillerud sets foot on the University of North Dakota campus this fall, university officials believe she and her fellow freshmen will be more aware of the dangers of alcohol than previous classes.
UND is requiring all incoming freshmen to complete an online alcohol education course, designed to better prepare students to deal with drinking-related issues they may encounter.
The learning tool has been available in the past and recommended for incoming freshmen, but this is the first year it is being mandated. Students that don’t complete the 20-minute course by Sept. 3 will be blocked from registering in spring semester.
Hillerud, 18, who plans on entering the university’s nursing program, welcomes some information to go with the rumors of alcohol’s role in college life.
“I think it’d be good to learn about it,” she said. “A lot of people don’t participate in drinking in high school and they get to college and they go off the deep end.”
The North Dakota Higher Education Consortium for Substance Abuse Prevention is sponsoring the statewide initiative, but UND is the only school to require it.
“We want our students to be successful, and that means recognizing what they’re going to run into away from the classroom,” said Becky Lamboley, assistant director of health and wellness education and outreach at UND. “When students abuse substances like alcohol, they aren’t as successful.”
Focus on freshmen
Lamboley said the course, used by 500 other universities nationwide, offers information ranging from physical affects and decision making to the role family history plays in tendencies to drink.
Ninety percent of students report they don’t need alcohol to have fun and one in three don’t drink at all, she said, but alcohol abuse still deserves plenty of attention.
“It’s a big enough issue I’m a full-time staff member working on it,” she said. “The past four years, there has been a slight decrease in use and binge drinking. Marijuana use has gone up.”
Alongside incoming freshmen, Lamboley said there are four other student groups considered more prone to alcohol use — student athletes, Greeks, American Indian students and non-traditional students, which includes other minorities and adult re-entries.
Lamboley believes the program is beneficial for all students but focusing on freshmen could start to change the culture on campus.
Not a reaction
UND’s push to promote the program started with a committee that focuses on alcohol and drugs. It was eventually filtered up to Vice President of Student Affairs Lori Reesor, who brought it to President Robert Kelley.
“Ultimately, it was President Kelley who said this is something we want,” Lamboley said.
Requiring the module wasn’t a reaction to recent high-profile substance abuse-related incidents on campus, such as the suspension of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity following a drug bust, she said.
“Those things do happen,” she said. “It’s painful when they do because we really do care about our students. It’s easier to focus on those decisions made by students that aren’t positive.”
She said generally, negative publicity surrounding drugs and alcohol has caused the student body to become more active and outspoken.
“When stuff like that happens it shows our work isn’t done,” she said. “A lot of students have stood up and said we’re not OK with this. We need to continue to move forward on these initiatives.”
Chris Bieri is a reporter
at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.