Join Together Post
July 22, 2008 –

New students arriving at the University of Virginia this
summer have the option to participate in the university’s first-ever
orientation session devoted specifically to alcohol abuse, the Daily Progress in Charlottesville reported July 20.

In addition to the orientation seminar, students will be asked to go
online in the weeks before classes start in late August to complete an
hour-long course focusing on facts about binge drinking, alcohol
poisoning and sexual assault. "Every year we hear about students across
the country dying from alcohol poisoning," said Susan Bruce, director
of the university’s Center for Alcohol and Substance Education. "We
don’t want that to happen here."

University officials say their efforts are focusing largely on
correcting student misconceptions about the level of drinking taking
place on campus. The orientation session is entitled "UVa Students: Is
Everybody Drinking?", and it already has demonstrated that students
tend to overestimate drinking prevalence among peers.

Each of a group of 15 students who attended a recent session held in
conjunction with fall class registration believed the school had an
equal mix of heavy drinkers and non-drinkers. Yet student surveys on
campus have shown that 75 percent of first-year students either drink
only modest amounts of alcohol or none at all.

The orientation session also makes reference to other risky
behaviors, including sex and smoking. Bruce said that 81 percent of
students reported no recent smoking, and for the others the university
will introduce a campaign to appeal to students’ financial interests.
The campaign’s posters read, "What’s the difference between a smoker
and a non-smoker? $1,766" (the annual estimated cost of cigarettes in
the local community).

"We find that the monetary perspective resonates with college kids," Bruce said.