Alcohol education campaign begins today


A new program to increase alcohol education on campus focuses on dispelling the misconceptions about alcohol use among university students.

The campaign starts today (Sept. 28) with a quiz in the Silhouette, followed by posters placed in various locations across campus during the week of Oct. 2.

Developed by Jane Radix, health educator, Student Health Services, the Reality-Check Campaign focuses on three questions:

* the number of nights of the week students spend drinking;

* the number of drinks consumed on one occasion; and

* the reasons why students drink.

According to Radix, research shows that most students have an inflated idea of the number of nights their fellow students spend drinking and the amount consumed in one evening.

“The data shows that typically students misperceive other students' use by 35 to 40 per cent,” says Radix.

In fact, a survey conducted by Student Health Services (SHS) in 1999 as part of Spirit Day '99 verified these findings: 53 per cent of respondents said that they thought fellow McMaster students consumed six to 12 drinks on any one occasion. When questioned about their own drinking habits, two-thirds of those surveyed reported consuming five drinks or fewer (figure includes those who reported not drinking at all!).

To assess the effectiveness of the campaign, the answers to the quiz will be posted on the SHS's Web site two weeks before they will be published in the student paper. The Web site hits will give some indication of the campaign's reach, Radix says.

By publicizing the real figures, it is hoped that students – especially first-year students – will feel less pressure to drink excessively and will not be operating under a false impression of the amount they have to drink in order to be accepted by the group.

Alcohol use played a major role in many of the hearings conducted by the Peer Conduct Board (PCB) during the 1999-2000 school year. According to an annual report to Senate submitted this summer by May Keyes, associate vice-president of student affairs, many of the hearings involved the abuse of alcohol or actions that resulted from the abuse of alcohol.

The 1999-2000 term was the first time the hearing process, permitted under the Student Code of Conduct, involved a peer panel. Each hearing panel was composed of three students. Keyes reports that the system worked well and that students involved in investigations and hearings reported satisfaction that they were treated with respect and that sanctions were fair.

There were 83 cases brought before the panel, involving 105 students. In the previous year (1998-1999), 84 cases involved 128 individuals.

In addition to violations involving alcohol, the report notes that there were increased incidents of students smoking cannabis, damaging property, and using e-mail to threaten and/or harass, as well as an increase in violent crimes involving threats and weapons.