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Are We Promoting Alcohol Ignorance or Alcohol Education?

The Lawrence Journal-World wrote an article about the success a select few greek organizations have had with curbs on alcohol. Here’s our response from President & CEO Ralph Blackman, urging the education community to value available resources to get to the real source of the problem on our nation’s campuses.

The problems associated with overconsumption of alcohol on campus continue to be addressed by many schools throughout the nation. As each school grapples with the problem, they neglect the reality that there is no perfect, nor single, solution. As Kansas University’s health educator, Jenny McKee, stated “…the real danger is with alcohol ignorance and people not knowing how many standard drinks – regardless of the type – they are consuming.” An overarching ban on liquor promotes alcohol ignorance, it does not contribute to alcohol education.

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility ( which has been developing programs and campaigns funded by America’s leading distillers for nearly twenty-five years has been active in alcohol education for many years.

Alcohol 101 and 101Plus were groundbreaking initiatives. Their use of technology brought lessons to life for students who, even more than ten years ago, sought technology-based learning. The program urged students to recognize the symptoms of alcohol poisoning and act quickly to call 911 in an emergency. Alcohol 101 even took on the issue of sexual consequences of overconsumption by showing students the importance of bystander intervention and that there could be two entirely different interpretations of the same event. The Promising Practices initiative organized by George Mason University canvased colleges across the nation to find resources, campaigns and policies that, upon review by an independent panel, offered campus communities ideas that already showed promise. Follow-on publications offered roadmaps for campus officials and outlined the responsibilities of taskforce members to present a holistic approach to the problem. Parents You’re Not Done Yet offered a guide to millions of parents to keep lines of communications open as their high school seniors dealt with the challenges of fitting in to new college surroundings. And, with the Ad Council and the American Advertising Federation, undertook a national campaign designed to help students find their own voice on the issue of overconsumption. More than 150 campuses developed creative campaigns and measured their impact on their fellow students. In the self-generated, internet-based, one size no longer fits all world of college students these campaigns spoke in a language that reflected each individual campus’ culture from a big state school in the South like University of Alabama’s Less Than U Think campaign to a Northeastern sports powerhouse like Syracuse University’s That Stupid Drink to an elite urban, private school like George Washington University’s You Know. Be There. The common thread running through each of these very different campaigns was that they each reflected the students’ own perception of their campus drinking culture and each offered the opportunity for students to speak to each other about this important campus issue.

KU’s McKee says it best as she speaks about banning irresponsible drinking practices and offers a more educational approach, “One that would incite a culture shift that says, ‘When we drink hard liquor, we do it responsibly by measuring our shots and knowing what is in our drink instead of taking pulls out of a handle or getting a cup full of a mystery beverage.’”

To be sure, addressing overconsumption on campus will continue to be a war fought on many fronts. But, the centerpiece of the battle plan must be education and empowering students to address the culture of overconsumption on their own campus. Otherwise, the end is not in sight.

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