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Alcohol education aims to change the culture
STANFORD -- Elise Lenox, new director of drug prevention programs at Stanford University, knew she had her work cut out for her when she found the fliers on cars outside Cowell Student Health Center:
LIQUOR BARN WELCOMES STANFORD BACK TO SCHOOL. LARGEST SELECTION OF KEGS IN THE WORLD. COME SEE US FOR ALL YOUR PARTY NEEDS!
"You'd think they would be more discreet, at least around the student health center," sighed Lenox, who worked previously as a drug educator in Bay Area secondary schools.
"Nationally the use of alcohol has slightly decreased, but it is still the most abused drug of choice in our society and on campus."
In a 1990 survey, 83 percent of Stanford students reported that they consumed alcoholic beverages, and nearly a quarter of all undergraduates reported having been unable to recall events because of it.
"I think it's going to be a slow process to change student attitudes," Lenox said. "Alcohol in this nation has been woven into the culture. We're working toward changing that culture, but it's going to take some time."
In addition to strengthening its policy against underage drinking, Stanford has increased efforts to educate students and residence staff about the dangers of alcohol abuse and the importance of personal responsibility.
In one series of workshops, Lenox and trained student facilitators go into student residences to talk about alcohol abuse on a personal level.
"My workshops ask students to examine their own use," Lenox said. "We're not prohibitionist, but we do try to teach students about the risks associated with alcohol abuse. We also teach them how to help friends who may have problems with alcohol."
A new Stanford Community Responsible Hospitality Project is sponsored by a $400,000 grant from the California State Office of Traffic Safety. The pilot program, which organizers hope to make a model for other schools around the country, is aimed at party-givers on campus.
Workshops encourage the student hosts to check IDs, and teach them how to recognize the obvious and subtle signs of intoxication in their guests. House leaders are encouraged to designate sober party monitors and escort coordinators who can arrange safe rides home.
Another workshop offers ideas on parties centered less on alcohol and more on "equally attractive non-alcoholic beverages" (EANABs, in Stanford student parlance), games, entertainment and good food.
"This effort at responsible hospitality is already happening in some bars and restaurants around the nation," said Stewart Kiner, who coordinates the project. "What we're trying to do is bring the same concepts into the college community."
One of the most innovative aspects of the Stanford hospitality project is the university's effort to work with managers of local bars, liquor stores and restaurants.
"What we do is get retailers, Stanford students and risk managers all around the table together to discuss ways that each of us can reduce the risks of alcohol in the community," Kiner said.
Kiner is planning to produce a video on the project and will be the host of a conference on the subject for other California colleges in two years.
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