The independent news organization of Duke University

Alcohol orientation program cut

With the discontinuation of "So You Wanna Get Buzzed?" as the freshman alcohol lecture - and no analogous replacement in sight - administrators are betting that some alcohol-related skits and an online program called AlcoholEdu can help fill in the gaps in educating incoming undergraduates on the perils of drinking.

The decision not to have an alcohol-related lecture as part of Orientation Week resulted from years of unfavorable student feedback and was influenced by a study from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators suggesting that such lectures early in the first semester were often ineffective.

"We're always trying look at new, different and more improved ways of communicating critical information to students, and there's been some research done that suggests sometimes the lecture style of providing information to students [during orientation] is not the best time to present that, nor is it the best format," said Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek.

Students have complained about "So You Wanna Get Buzzed?" for years, said Assistant Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi, who is in charge of orientation programs. On the other hand, feedback was generally favorable for the series of interactive skits called "The Real Deal," so Lombardi decided to incorporate the topic of alcohol use into several skits and ask "So You Wanna Get Buzzed?" from the ticket altogether.

"Our rationale in removing that specific alcohol program is we've received really good responses from students about 'The Real Deal,'" Lombardi said. "At that time, when students are first here, going through that interactive [program] hits home a little bit more and has a little bit more substance for them."

With an eye toward interactivity, administrators chose AlcoholEdu as the other significant piece of alcohol programming for freshmen. The online course, created by Brandon Busteed, Trinity '99, has become one of the most prominent in the country and is used by schools such as Dartmouth College, Villanova University and Princeton University.

Jeff Kulley, coordinator of alcohol and substance abuse services for Counseling and Psychological Services, gave the program a favorable review.

"I think it does [work]," Kulley said. "It provides solid information. It's pretty user-friendly; students have been using it for a couple of years now at Duke [through CAPS] and most report it's a positive experience.

"The question about whether it changes behavior is something that still needs to be researched," he added, noting that there has been some indication of positive effects.

Kulley said he was "a little bit" concerned about the fact that the most substantial piece of alcohol programming, AlcoholEdu, will not be offered to students until well after the first week of orientation. Still, he said the three-hour program would be more extensive than "So You Wanna Get Buzzed?" and therefore more useful in the long run.

While alcohol will get less time in Orientation Week, Lombardi said the issue remains as important as ever.

"We'll spend much less time on it, don't get me wrong," he said. "[But] I want to make sure this change doesn't make people think we're just ignoring this and putting it on the wayside. I don't think [the change will] have any negative effect, because we will still be talking about [alcohol] with them. I wouldn't be doing it if I thought it would have a negative impact on things."

Discussion

Share and discuss “Alcohol orientation program cut” on social media.