GV promotes alcohol awareness

Kara Haight

As final exam stress creeps up at Grand Valley State University, campus leaders are raising awareness about alcohol abuse, affects and responsible consumption as some students might turn to alcohol for a release.

The advocacy is part of the larger National Alcohol Screening Day on April, which offers students the opportunity to take confidential alcohol screening questionnaires at various locations throughout the Allendale and Pew Grand Rapids campuses.

“Students can expect to take a brief alcohol screening questionnaire,” said Karen Burba of GVSU’s Counseling and Career Development Center. “It will take less than five minutes to complete and asks about drinking habits. Those who complete the questionnaire will have the opportunity to meet with a counselor and, based on their results, a counselor may refer them to appropriate resources to address any problems or concerns a student may have.”

Burba said there are some signs of potential problem drinking that anyone can observe.

“(Not being able to) stop after one drink, engaging in behavior while drunk that they wouldn’t do sober, regularly engaging in pre-partying, not being able to follow limits, drinking daily (and) feeling guilt and shame are their drunken behaviors,” Burba said.

According to Grand Valley Police Department’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report 2012, there were 165 arrests made from liquor law violation on campus and 99 off campus in 2011. Although there are no statistics or numbers available for the current academic year, GVPD Officer Scott Dusendang said incidents involving alcohol, anything from Driving Under the Influence to Minor in Posession citations, have decreased overall, while drug incidents were on the rise.

Dusendang did not pinpoint an exact reason for the incident decrease but said alcohol prevention programs and a high visibility by GVPD may have contributed.

“High visibility is not just officers on the streets, it’s foot patrol, segways, bicycles,” Dusendang said. “We focus mainly on the living centers, Ravines and the public and academic areas of campus.”

When it comes to programs, GVPD has partners with housing, various student organizations, and centers on campus like the Women’s Center and Alcohol Campus Education Services (ACES) to provide students preventive and educational programs.

“(We want to) find out what programs are working, what’s not, and what content needs to be changed,” Dusendang said. “(There are) a lot of interactive programs about what a drink is, how it can affect a person and defining responsible drinking.”

Alecia Smith, the graduate assistant at ACES, said the program Alcohol: Truth, Lies and Consequences is in high demand between Greek life and student organizations. ACES also coordinates a Mario Kart Drunk Driving program with GVPD.

But programs aside, Dusendang said the biggest thing for students to remember when drinking is responsibility.

“If someone drinks and is responsible, we won’t have an issue,” Dusendang said. “It’s when we find out they are abusing it, drawing negative attention to the police.”

Smith also repeated the encouragement of accountability and the consequences of decisions surrounding alcohol.

“The message of ACES is not ‘not to drink.’ We come at drinking from a health and responsibility stance,” Smith said. “Also, students should be aware that if they are caught drinking underage then there are legal implications and campus sanction associated with that decision.”

Although many believe alcohol consumption is just a part of college life, Burba said she challenges students to be knowledgeable about drinking and possible effects.

“I think that students should understand the risks associated with alcohol use and what a problem drinking is,” Burba said. “It can be dangerous and lead to alcohol abuse and dependence.”

Burba added that students with a family history of alcoholism should be especially aware and encouraged all students to take advantage of the resources available on campus.

“Whether at the counseling center or ACES, there are great professionals available to help in a supportive nonjudgmental manner,” she said.

For those not able to complete an Alcohol Screening Day questionnaire on campus, an online version can be found on the Counseling and Career Development Center’s website.
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