Initiatives in action to create alcohol awareness

A series of initiatives to address student use and interaction with alcohol, including education and the formation of a new organization, are in their beginning stages at Baker University.

These plans have begun as a part of ongoing dialogue between administrators, staff and students. Director of Greek Life Bryan VanOsdale said a consensus agrees there needs to be more understanding about risks involved with alcohol on Baker’s campus.

“This is not something that is unique to Baker,” VanOsdale said. “There is this whole culture built around alcohol, and there has been a lot of dialogue, a lot of talk from working with (University President) Dr. Pat (Long) to fraternity and sorority leaders about how we need to get a handle on it. We’re not going back to the 1920s. The answer is education, making people aware of the dangers of alcohol when it is used irresponsibly.”

Counseling Center Director Kelly Bowers has worked to apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Bowers said the application was written with two main goals in mind: to change the “normative environment” through prevention programs and to “implement a system of intervention including screening and treatment.” If the grant comes through, it would potentially fund more education for First Year Experience students about the risks of alcohol and give more opportunities for students to be screened regarding their alcohol-related behavior.

“We want students to know about what responsible drinking is and what the policies are,” Bowers said. “There are ways we can have screening days at the university so students can get an assessment as to whether or not they may be at risk and give them a way if they want to talk to myself or (have us) refer them to an outpatient service.”

Bowers said she saw the necessity of education based on conversations she’s had and results of a Core survey conducted with Baker students about their use of alcohol prior to her coming to Baker. Bowers said there were certain aspects of the survey results that indicated Baker students were more at risk than other universities to drive cars under the influence or miss classes due to alcohol use.

“It will probably be awhile before students see this anywhere,” Bowers said. “But this is something I think we all are pretty committed to – making some changes from the top of the administration down.”

Senior Jon Xenos, along with VanOsdale, has been working toward beginning a Greeks Advocating the Mature Management of Alcohol program on the campus to specifically address greek behavior in relationship to alcohol. Xenos said students will probably see information related to GAMMA in the next three weeks.

“I would say we’ve all heard stories about alcohol,” Xenos said. “I think it would work having more speakers come down (to talk about alcohol) and more opportunity for students to have understanding about how much substance abuse such as with alcohol can take over your life without even knowing it.”