New program targets alcohol abuse and nonconsentual sex on campus

Michelle Whitmore

Kayla Friedrich

Michelle Whitmore

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After receiving a grant from the Vermont Department of Health, Johnson State College is introducing an online, mandatory program to freshman and transfer students in an effort to reduce alcohol abuse and sexual violence on campus.

High-risk drinking has, in recent decades, become a factor in college life that can jeopardize students’ chances at academic success, according to recent studies.

Alcohol misuse can also lead to sexual abuse. Data from the National Institute of Justice shows that one in five college women, and 1 in 16 college men, will experience some form of nonconsensual sexual activity by graduation.

AlcoholEdu is a 2.5-hour, interactive program with an online platform designed for all students, whether they drink frequently or not at all. The point is to inform students about the dangers of drinking by taking their personal situations into account and then offering advice.

The program also incorporates Haven, which is sandwiched in the middle of the AlcoholEdu curriculum, to reduce sexual violence. “Everfi, the company we purchased the program from, has been very much a part of high school and higher education for several years,” says Assistant Dean of Students Michele Whitmore.  “When I first started here at Johnson, 19 years ago, they were known as ‘Outside the Classroom,’ and within their company structure they’ve hired research experts…to put together strategies to help educate our high school and college-age students on keeping themselves and their peers safe.”

According to Everfi, most of the research that it has is based on other colleges administering the course, as over 500 campuses across the nation and 36 percent of all first-year students at America’s four-year higher education institutions use the program.

“AlcoholEdu for College is the only online alcohol prevention program that was designed for population-level prevention,” says Johnson State’s correspondent at Everfi, C.W. Estoff. “Its personalized approach provides an experience that impacts both individual behavior and campus culture, reducing your institutional risk.”

Students receive a code that is specific to the college they attend, and input their username. Once logged on, the program engages a series of visual and audio clips as well as case-studies that will take students through different scenarios within the college setting. After each, it will ask how they would have reacted, and whether they have or have had any personal experience with alcohol.

For students who are found in violation of alcohol policies or caused harm to themselves or others when drinking, the college is also implementing a program called Alcohol Sanctions, and they will receive what Everfi calls a “Brief Motivational Intervention.”

BMI is an approach providing online personalized feedback to students via AlcoholEdu’s “Alcohol Innerview” tool, typically before they go to a session with a counselor.

According to Whitmore, the administration is also encouraging all student leaders to take the program.  “It’s a separate log-in code, and anyone on campus can take it. I think all of us can use a little education on making sure our relationships are safe and healthy,” she says.

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