National grant helps fund alcohol program

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September 11, 2009

3:22 AM

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Drug-Free Schools awarded the College of William and Mary a grant for a drinking prevention program called On TRACK, or “Teaching Responsible Alcohol Choice and Knowledge.” The $276,804 grant provides funding for over two years and began in July.

According to Dr. Jill Russet, the program’s coordinator, On TRACK will primarily target fraternities and sororities. However, Russet insists that the choice to focus on Greek organizations is not punitive.

“We selected Greek student organizations, [but] we know that other students who drink on campus are high-risk drinkers. So we don’t want to stigmatize or categorize them as the high-risk drinkers on campus.

We selected them because research shows that those
engaged with a Greek organization are more likely to drink,” Russet said. “But we’ve also done work with
Greek organizations in the past so we thought it would be a good, accessible population.”

Russet hopes that targeting fraternities and sororities will spark a trickle-down effect. The program’s goal is to inspire juniors and seniors to become positive role models in their organizations and around campus.

Another program goal is to create an open dialogue between college administrators and students. One problem Russet has encountered in the past is that students and administrators have different definitions of binge drinking.

Russet defines binge drinking as constituting five or more drinks in one sitting for a male and four or more drinks in one sitting for a female. However, she has found that many students don’t agree with this definition. Russet wants to resolve this and other kinks in the communication lines between students and administrators.

“We really want to utilize the perception of students and what they see as binge drinking,” Russert said.

While all the details of On TRACK aren’t concrete, focus groups will be an essential component of its programming. The focus group, concentrating on Greek organizations, will consist of eight to 10 people.

Gift cards and other incentives will be provided for students who willingly participate. The groups will use the social norming theory and motivational interviews will assist in making the dialogue more effective.

The social norming theory holds that students believe their peers drink more than they actually do, making them more likely to think binge drinking is normal.

According to the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) survey that the College utilizes, students overestimate the monthly alcohol consumption of their peers by 5 percent and their daily alcohol use by 25 percent.

This misconception may contribute to the College’s potentially high alcohol consumption statistics. The NCHA survey claims that 82.9 percent of students at the college consume alcohol, whereas 80 percent of students do so nationwide.

Motivational interviews will allow Greek organizations to assess any issues they may have with high-risk drinking and set goals for improvement.

Administrators will send alcohol consumption related surveys to students through e-mail at the beginning and the end of the program to assess its effectiveness.

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