Campus, News

First-year students now required to take alcohol awareness test online

After a turbulent year which included the death of one underage student who had been drinking, Boston University first-year students will be required to complete an online alcohol education program beginning this year, officials said. 

President of BU Students for Sensible Drug Policy Melanie Kirsh said she is glad BU officials have decided to implement the program, called AlcoholEdu, for first-year students like many of BU’s peer institutions have.

“They [BU officials] are going to prove that they’re not just saying ‘We care about your health,’ but that they actually mean it and that they want us to be educated about what kids are going to be using in college if they choose to,” Kirsh, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said.

Kirsh said the program will be effective in broadening students’ understanding of the consequences and risks associated with alcohol.

“Instead of saying, ‘No, don’t do it,’ it [AlcoholEdu] is saying, ‘Okay, well, if you are going to do it, know these facts and know your limits,’” Kirsh said.

The program is an online intervention that provides students with information about alcohol use and surveys students’ knowledge about the consumption of alcohol as well as their personal uses of alcohol, said Student Health Services Manager of Wellness and Prevention Services Elizabeth Douglas.

“AlcoholEdu for College is an online personalized feedback tool designed to provide first-year students will the knowledge and skills to make informed and lower-risk decisions around alcohol, whether they choose to drink or not,” Douglas said in an email.

All new students must complete the program, which requires scoring 70 percent, Douglas said. Students must complete part one of the program before arriving on campus in the fall. The second part will be administered online in mid-September. Students who do not pass can review the content and retake the exam.

“The university does not have access to any individual student’s responses,” Douglas said. “They will only know if they completed each part and passed the exam, so students can feel comfortable providing accurate and honest information.”

Douglas said many of BU’s peer institutions use AlcoholEdu as a program designed to educate first-year students about the risks associated with drinking. The intervention program, also used by Boston area colleges such as Boston College and Bentley University, personalizes results for students.

“The intervention adjusts itself based on the information the student inputs, so that the feedback the student receives will be specific to that student’s use or non-use pattern,” she said.

While Boston University has offered an online intervention program called iHealth in the past, 2013 will mark the first year incoming students are required to complete an online intervention.

“We select our interventions based on research and evidence of effectiveness,” she said. “We are using AlcoholEdu because it has the capacity to track student completion, in addition to having evidence of being an effective intervention.”

AlcoholEdu is only a component of BU’s strategy this upcoming academic year to face alcohol-related issues, Douglas said.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said AlcoholEdu brings benefits to new students by giving them the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the risks associated with alcohol use.

“They [first-years] can gain a good understanding as individuals of what misconceptions they might have had as well as misperceptions and new information to help them make good decisions,” Riley said.

The program was chosen because research and evidence has proven it more effective than other alcohol education programs, Riley said.

“There are a lot of programs, and there are a lot of initiatives,” he said. “This one has had success where it has been used, and that’s one of the reasons that we moved forward on this initiative.”

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