Take a look sometime at the “selected crime reports” from around campus. There will doubtless be some false alarms, mild disturbances, and, sadly, the occasional serious crime. Chances are, however, that most of them are related to alcohol. In a recent interview with The Villanovan, Dean Pugh mentioned that most of the offenders against the University’s alcohol policy didn’t repeat the violation- and most of them were freshmen. These are precisely the people that are required to take the AlcoholEdu course, which suggests that for some students something is not quite clicking. Bear in mind that the AlcoholEdu program is required for all Villanova freshmen and the vast majority of us took it. How effective is it? Results vary. It is a question best directed to VEMS. Statistically, the university points out that 98% of all freshmen have completed the “required” course; it’s hard to believe that the remaining 2% are responsible for all those violations of policy.
What’s wrong with this picture? There’s no doubt that the program makes an attempt to reach out to all students. It tries—and you have to give them credit for it—to be hip, upbeat, and relevant. Unless it can constantly be updated with the latest cell phone models and whatever’s new in fashion, however, it can quickly come across as cheesy. And once students stop taking the message seriously, it’s all too easy for them to tune it out completely. Technical problems can be a pain, too. Those turned me away from logging in for months.
Perhaps the design of the program is wrong. What, then, are the options for creating a more effective program? There are two extreme paths that such a program could follow: on the one hand, a devil-may-care approach that hides problems under the carpet, and on the other a virtual police state that raids randomly selected dorm rooms at unearthly hours of the morning. The vast majority of community members would likely oppose both of these extremes, yet when it comes to the middle of the road people seem to blank. Yes, they are told, if you drink it will be detrimental to your health and studies. Yes, if you are underage, it will also be illegal. They are reminded that alcohol abuse causes thousands of DUI fatalities and is a major factor in many cases of sexual assault.
Yet attitudes remain mysteriously lax. Kids talk about it in hallways, teachers joke about it, and parents get worried. Truth be told, nobody is served by leaving things this way. However, the question might be far more general than it seems, and the answer might not be as narrow as some would hope. Why? In my opinion, this attitude of seeming complacency is the major problem in creating an effective program to educate students about the issue of alcohol abuse.
Right now, it seems that we are not doing the best we can. Can I claim to offer a new solution? I cannot. Do I think there isn’t one? I do not. However, instead of shrugging our shoulders again and brushing it off for the umpteenth time, it’s important that the community can talk about it. This is not to suggest that we merely bury the matter under layers of dialogue, but if people have had a bad experience with alcohol and want to warn others about it, they should speak up. If there are questions, they need a forum in which to be heard. And if people can explain their views on their opposition to university policy, they should be able to rationally explain them.
If the AlcoholEdu program isn’t doing its job, complacency becomes a part of the larger problem. “Community” and “dialogue” are two values often stressed at this university. It seems to this writer that the community should put them into practice to solve a problem that few seem to be currently addressing.