In spite of UCSB’s notoriety as a top party school, administrative staff and campus health programs are fighting to shake this party reputation. New and long-used programs and events are being put in motion to help educate students about binge drinking and drug abuse to promote learning over partying, and academics over shots.
Debbie Fleming, Associate Dean of Students, said that administrative staff members are hoping to find ways for students to connect socially outside of the party scene. “There are a growing number of students who are looking for alternatives and want to meet people and make friends somewhere besides I.V. parties,” she said.
The challenge UCSB as an institution is faced with is to establish a strong sense of work ethic and the recognition of ground-breaking research conducted by professors. Excessive partying is a temptation for most, according to Fleming, over 80 percent of UCSB students drink, and what is crucial now is not only to note that academics will suffer a hit, but that such a hit negatively impacts the reputations of both the university and its students.
The MyStudentBody.com survey that first-years and junior transfers are required to take is a recent effort, the survey became an instituted requirement in 2007, to employ prevention strategies for binge drinking. “I do think that most of the students who take the course take it seriously,” Fleming said. “[Furthermore] it isn’t that easy to pass the test if you haven’t read the material and there is a limit to the number of times you can try.”
According to voluntary student feedback, 38 percent of students who took the survey responded that the “My Student Body Alcohol” section of the website “moderately” expanded their knowledge of alcohol, 12 percent said that the website was “extremely” effective, and 27 percent were in between these two categories.
There are other facts to support the website’s findings.
During the 2006-2007 school year, 1,088 students took a College Alcohol Skills Education (C.A.S.E.) class. The program was recently developed in 2005, but there are already results. Michelle Kitson, the Outreach Coordinator for UCSB’s Alcohol & Drug Program, reported various statistics that indicate UCSB students are beginning to better control their party habits. During the 2007-2008 school year, 961 students took a C.A.S.E. class; 127 fewer students than the preceding year. As of mid-February, 590 students have taken a C.A.S.E. class, a promising number for the remainder of the school year.
Administrative staff members are not the only people at UCSB concerned with alcohol and drug education. The Healthy Eating And Living (H.E.A.L.) and Students Teaching Alcohol and other drug Responsibility (S.T.A.R.) interns are committed to promoting alcohol awareness. These student groups strive to teach students who choose to drink ways to do so responsibly and they also support UCSB’s After Dark program, which offers alternatives to the Isla Vista party scene.
On the evening of Friday, April 24, both H.E.A.L. and S.T.A.R. interns walked Del Playa, handing out free snacks and water to party goers. Both H.E.A.L.’s “Snack Attack” and S.T.A.R.’s “Project Hydrate” were events designed to help students fight a looming hangover as well as encourage preventative approaches to experiencing negative effects of binge drinking and promote responsible drinking.
“The purpose of distributing snacks is to encourage students to eat before they drink,” said Lena Rakijian, External Coordinator for the H.E.A.L. interns. Rakijian said that drinking on an empty stomach makes it easier to get more intoxicated and at a faster pace. She said students should not, however, view this as a good way to get drunk; drinking on an empty stomach increases the likelihood of experiencing either a black-out, hangover, or both.
In conjunction with the H.E.A.L. interns, the S.T.A.R. interns promote hydration both prior to drinking as well as between drinks. “Drinking water between drinks is a way to moderate drinking,” said Alex Kemper-McCall, External Coordinator for the S.T.A.R. interns.
An avid partier might not see the importance of moderation when drinking, but Kemper-McCall said drinking without water has the same consequences as drinking on an empty stomach: “Both black-outs and hangovers are more likely,” she said.
Michael Takahara, instructor of a class required of S.T.A.R. interns, feels the interns have impacted the way students view alcohol consumption at UCSB. “In fall 2008, we had 14 S.T.A.R. interns and they discussed with, distributed to, and referred services and information to 1,383 people and contacts,” he said.
Combined administrative and student efforts to raise awareness regarding alcohol and drug safety are forging a new path for UCSB, seeking to promote student safety and academic improvements. Perhaps a proven result of their efforts is UCSB’s failure to crack Playboy’s list of top ten party schools in the nation.
Information about alternatives to the party scene can be found at UCSB’s Alcohol and Drug Program website.