Barbara Hoffman

Barbara Hoffman

BGSU’s alcohol education efforts honored

BGSU has received national recognition for its alcohol education efforts.

The University and its Wellness Connection earned honorable mention in the 2004-05 National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week (NCAAW) Awards Contest. Bowling Green was one of 10 institutions nationwide, and the only one in Ohio, to be recognized by the contest sponsor, the Inter-Association Task Force on Alcohol and Other Substance Abuse Issues.

The task force evaluates participating institutions’ year-round efforts to prevent alcohol abuse as well as their NCAAW activities. Criteria include comprehensiveness of the year-round program, breadth of participation/collaboration and use of evidence-based approaches in designing prevention programs.

“They (the task force) like that we have such a multifaceted way of approaching the issue,” says Barbara Hoffman, the Wellness Connection’s health promotion coordinator.

Since 1997, BGSU has used a social norms approach in an attempt to change student attitudes and behaviors and the campus social environment. Pointing out that student perception of alcohol consumption by peers is much higher than reality is an example of the approach.

The use of peer educators is also part of the multidimensional strategy, as are the distribution of “safe spring break” kits and 21st birthday cards—both with information about alcohol poisoning, among other things—and the scheduling of Late Night at the Rec and the Big Playground. The latter two events are non-alcoholic, on-campus alternatives for students on fall and February weekends, respectively.

Two new strategies have been added this year as part of a project expanding the University’s effort to reduce student high-risk drinking, defined as having five or more alcoholic drinks in a sitting more than once in a two-week period. The two-year project is funded by a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, which awarded the maximum amount to BGSU—the lone grant recipient in Ohio and among 20 nationwide.

One of the new education strategies requires that students in highest-risk groups—first-year students, athletes and members of fraternities and sororities—complete AlcoholEdu, an interactive, online prevention program aimed at such populations of students. Created by Outside The Classroom, a Needham, Mass.-based company, the course combines prevention strategies with science-based alcohol education. The program assesses student behavior before and after taking the course.

The other new strategy is training of Student Health Service and Wood County Hospital Emergency Room staff, as well as campus and city police and other BGSU representatives, to deal with alcohol poisoning. Bowling Green is the first university to receive grant funds to implement National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism guidelines for health care providers. They will be trained to use the guidelines for engaging students with an alcohol problem and referring them to a Wellness Connection counselor for help.

Considering the continuing influx of new students, an effective fight against alcohol abuse on campus requires workable policy and a coalition with the city, according to Hoffman. She co-chairs the University Committee on Alcohol and Other Drug Issues, which also includes community representatives.

“It helps when you have a lot of people coming together to discuss the issue,” says Hoffman, who is leading the new grant project with Dr. Terry Rentner, an associate professor and chair of journalism at BGSU.

Rentner’s campaign against high-risk drinking at the University has been backed since 1997 with yearly $25,000 grants from the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services. BGSU received an additional $76,292 from the U.S. Department of Education in 1999 for what the department deemed one of seven model programs in the nation.

BGSU was also among seven institutions that received honorable mention in the NCAAW contest. The three universities named as winners were Bradley, Missouri-Columbia and Regis, located in Denver.

The purpose of NCAAW is to help students make responsible, legal decisions and to reduce the incidence of alcohol-related problems on campuses and in college communities.

November 21, 2005