Students question fix for alcohol and sexual assault

By Brandon Bielinski

Over the summer, students received an email from Student and Residential Life announcing the requirement of two online courses—one on substance abuse, and the other on sexual assault—that were mandatory. If they didn’t take the courses, the students were told, they wouldn’t be given a key to enter their housing. On move in day, all students were given access, regardless of their course completion status.

AlchoholEdu, the most widely used alcohol prevention program by colleges and universities, covered alcohol and drug use, while the second program, Haven, covered sexual assault prevention, both constant topics of discussion in student life offices across the country. Of the 1,700 students living on campus, a little over 1,400 of them completed both courses.
Each two hour course began with a personal survey, followed by a diagnostic exam measuring the student’s prior knowledge.
AlcoholEdu displayed what basic drink is, physical effects of various blood alcohol content (BAC) levels, and how to help a person with alcohol poisoning.

Haven, the first online sexual assault prevention course, employed by over 650 institutions in the US, addresses sexual assault, stalking, relationship violence, and sexual harassment. Advice on helping a friend in the face of sexual assault is also provided.
Interactive videos and games both relayed the teaching points and quizzed through engaging the student with questions. Students were required to click through each smaller lesson in order for the course to advance. A final exam was given and students were required to score an 80 percent.

According to Catherine Welch, assistant dean of students and coordinator of health education, the overall goal behind implementing AlcoholEDU and Haven is in an effort to create a more informed community, resulting in positive decision making.

“If students knew this information, great, it’s a great refresher,” Welch said. “But we also thought there was a bunch of information in there that students might not necessarily know and that’s the feedback we’ve actually gotten back from students.”

Welch explained that the decision to implement these courses occurred a few years ago, as it fit well with the focus of Student Life. Due to budget issues, the program was not approved until this summer.

In the coming years, not all students will be required, “Going forward the hope is to really target first year students coming in,” Welch said.

Initially, students who did not complete the courses would not receive their new keys; however, all students received keys regardless. Students had mixed reactions to this decision, some upset keys were brought into question at all, some frustrated that some appeared to be bending rules and skipping over the courses.

“We are still very committed that everyone who received their key will complete the course.” Welch plans to actively follow up with the remaining students.

Welch stressed that Student Life was not trying to bully students into taking the courses, but are passionate about educating students on important issues.

Students who have dealt with sexual assault do not have to take the courses, as many reported the courses were insensitive and triggering. One concern some of the students had with the courses was their inability to accommodate students who have dealt with sexual assault. Welch said that she is more than willing to work with these students one on one to make sure that they understand that they do not have to take it. “In receiving that feedback, I will absolutely follow up with EverFi.”

“I can do a better job in the future of advertising to students, hey, if you have personal experience with this and feel like it would not be in your best interest to take it we can absolutely work with [you] one on one,” Welch assured.

Despite the implementation of AlcoholEDU, a record number of students were sent to Act 1 the first weekend of the semester.
“Any effort we do is about long term change in the community and the culture. We are not naive enough to think that students are going to take this one hour course and our campus is just going to change,” Welch said.