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UB Works With Local Bar Owners to Ensure Students Drink Responsibly

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: March 20, 1998

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Two groups that may appear to be strange bedfellows -- the Alcohol Review Board (ARB) at the University at Buffalo and owners of taverns near the university's South Campus -- are working together to maintain a safer community and ensure that UB students who patronize off-campus bars and restaurants engage in legal and responsible consumption of alcohol.

This collaboration with local bar owners is only one way the ARB works to provide a safe, healthy and responsible environment for the campus and the community. The board, a campus-wide committee composed of faculty, staff and students that establishes and reviews policies concerning the possession, consumption and sale of alcoholic beverages at UB, also is involved with numerous campus organizations in a variety of projects. Among them are the production of a video on binge drinking, development of intervention and prevention programs, and the compilation and dissemination of research on drug and alcohol consumption by students.

"We're looking at off-campus establishments and on-campus events to see that people are being responsible with what they are doing," said Sandra Fazekas, events coordinator for the Center for the Arts and a member of the ARB. "Our task is to educate students that they don't need to get drunk to be accepted by their peers."

Fazekas noted that the tavern owners are incorporating the Anheuser-Busch "Drink Responsibly" campaign into their advertisements, and cooperating in the implementation of a "Statement of Understanding by Student Organizations Renting Space" off-campus. The document will assist bars and campus groups in promoting responsible advertising practices -- eliminating the "drink 'til you drop" ads, for example -- and a safer environment for student social events held off-campus, she said.

ARB also has created an Alcohol Responsible Rating Form to evaluate events and establishments where alcohol is served, she said, adding that a pilot program testing use of the form will be introduced for the fall semester.

The board is working with the Department of Public Safety, Office of Student Life, the Counseling Center, Student Health Center and the Inter-Greek Office, all on-campus, to develop a video to educate students about the seriousness of binge drinking, said Laurie Krupski, an intervention specialist with the Student Health Center.

Krupski noted that although UB already has acquired a video through RID (Remove Intoxicated Drivers), its target audience is parents. "It's good, but we need one that is more geared toward college students," she said.

The video under development will feature UB students ages 17-21 talking about their own experiences with binge drinking, she said.

The majority of deaths from binge drinking come from "well-meaning people who felt it was best to let them (the bingeing student) sleep it off," she said.

Moreover, students "fear that if they call for help (for the friend) and they are underage drinkers, they will be busted," she added.

The video will encourage students to recognize the signs when someone has overdosed on alcohol and to call for help, Krupski said. Calls for help in these situations "will be taken into account" in any disciplinary proceedings, she stressed. "Their first priority is to get the (bingeing) student help."

She said she hopes the video will be finished in time to be used during orientation sessions for the fall semester.

The ARB also is concerned with what Krupski and Sarah Bihr, director of the Student Health Center, called "misperceived norms," whereby students make behavioral decisions based upon the perception that "everyone else is doing it."

"Students don't recognize that a majority of students on-campus don't want alcohol and drugs at their parties," Krupski said, pointing to statistics from the 1996-97 Statewide Core Survey that measured alcohol and other drug use at two- and four-year institutions in New York State.

The ARB is planning, through educational initiatives, to circulate statistics that show the actual norms, she said, adding that the board also may conduct its own core survey at UB "to get closer to home."

These kinds of statistics should show students that "alcohol and drugs are not everything and they are not what everbody's doing," Krupski said. "If more students hear this, then maybe they won't try to live up to the expectation" that getting drunk is part of the student experience.

For students who do violate the university's drug and alcohol policies, as well as for others who are looking for education on alcohol-and-drug-related issues, the Student Health Center has initiated the Student Educational Program for Alcohol and Drugs (SEPAD).

Krupski, working with treatment providers in the community, conducts "highly interactive" discussion sessions on such topics as binge drinking, alcoholism, helping friends who are drinking, perceptions and marijuana use.

Students with serious drug and alcohol problems are referred to treatment agencies outside UB.

Krupski noted that SEPAD is just one program that comes under the auspices of the Wellness-Based Prevention and Intervention Program, which advocates alternatives to the use of drugs and alcohol, and attempts to foster "an environment in which personal growth, healthy choices and positive community values are encouraged."

In addition to SEPAD, other programs include POWER (Peers Offering Wellness, Education and Resources) advocates, students affiliated with the Living Well Center at UB who promote wellness to their peers by conducting workshops and other outreach programs. Natural High Events are on-campus recreational events that "promote alternatives to harmful behaviors." The Wellness Council is a group of faculty, staff and students that contributes to major wellness programs and events on-campus.

UB's Wellness-Based Prevention and Intervention Program has been included in the George Mason University sourcebook, "Promising Practices: Campus Alcohol Strategies," a compilation of drug-and-alcohol strategies from universities nationwide.