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ISSUE 120 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/13/2006

Alcohol program informs

By Emelie Heltsley
Staff Writer

Friday, October 13, 2006

After searching for a new alcohol education program for students who receive alcohol violations, Director of Residence Life Pamela McDowell has chosen MyStudentBody. The interactive program educates students on many aspects of alcohol use and provides data about student alcohol use.

The old alcohol sanctioning program included an outdated CD ROM called "Alcohol 101," as well as having students write research papers on different aspects of alcohol use, abuse or laws.

McDowell had been looking for a new, user-friendly program for several months, and finally found a winner with MyStudentBody. Every student who receives an alcohol violation will be required to sign up for the program and complete several educational "assignments," which may include reading articles, taking quizzes and looking at data. Students required to use the program will be charged $25 to help cover the cost to the college.

McDowell stressed MyStudentBody's educational aspect as a main benefit.

"If you're going to use alcohol, you should understand everything you possibly can," she said.

So far, student reaction to the program has been mostly positive. Twenty-one students have been assigned to the program, and eight have completed it."

A satisfaction survey at the end of the program gauges overall satisfaction, the amount of knowledge gained and the quality of information on the program. Of the students who have completed the survey, all ranked their overall satisfaction of the course between average and excellent. Approximately 22 percent said that the program made them pay moderately more attention to their drinking habits, 33 percent said that it made them pay an average amount of additional attention to their drinking habits, and 33 percent said that it made them pay an extreme amount of additional attention to their drinking habits. Approximately 89 percent of those who took the survey said that the quality of information was between average and excellent.

While McDowell will be able to see survey results, all other information is kept completely confidential and anonymous.

McDowell hopes that the information on MyStudentBody helps students make educated decisions about drinking.

"You might not change your decisions, but at least they are more informed," she said.

The program, which has a user-friendly interface, allows the user to come back and access it for information.

When first starting the program, students will create a user account and profile. Once a student has access, their profile will be open for them to come back at any point. From the main menu, users can access several different features of the site, including frequently asked questions, quizzes, and a "Help Now" menu that has emergency information specific to St. Olaf. It also compares St. Olaf information with information of national college students who also use MyStudentBody.

Featured articles address such issues as alcohol and the brain, how the human body metabolizes alcohol, and how to live an alcohol-free life. Other sections of the website include articles about commonly taken risks when using alcohol, alcohol and sex crimes and the effects of drinking while using drugs.

MyStudentBody also has specific tools, such as a blood alcohol calculator, weekly polls and audio files of current college students telling their individual stories.

On the website, students can "Ask the Expert" questions about alcohol use, punishments, myths, rumors, dangers and health concerns.

McDowell thinks that using the Internet for alcohol education is a smart move.

"Students today trust the Internet," she said. "If you can get good information from it, great." She continued, saying that the Internet makes students feel comfortable.

MyStudentBody will only be used for the first alcohol violation – students who receive multiple violations will not have to take the course more than once. Repeat violators will have other consequences to be determined by McDowell and the other college deans.

McDowell also stressed that nothing has changed with the student staff. There are no additional rounds or different training.

"There has been alcohol use on campus [this year, and they] are confronting it," she said. "This sanction is the only thing that is different."

Students who are concerned about their drinking habits but do not have an alcohol violation are encouraged to talk to McDowell. "I will be more than happy to give them [MyStudentBody] information," she said.

The makers of MyStudentBody also have similar online programs relating to drug use and cigarette smoking. Should student interest be high enough, McDowell said that purchasing additional programs would be a possibility.

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