Aug. 31-Sept. 6, 2001
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University receives grant to address alcohol abuse

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University receives grant to address alcohol abuse

By Dan Heuchert

How much fraternity brothers actually drink vs. the perception of how much they drink will be the focus of a new U.Va. effort supported by the U.S. Department of Education.

After reviewing 107 proposals, the education department chose U.Va.’s among the 14 projects to be funded. The University will use its two-year, $250,000 grant to develop and implement — with students — a comprehensive program to address alcohol abuse in fraternities and sororities.

The program, “Preventing High-Risk Drinking Through Greek Environmental Management”— GEM for short — will offer students a more realistic picture of what constitutes “normal” alcohol consumption, thus reducing the pressure some may feel to keep up with an inflated perception of how much their peers are drinking.

A similar “social-norms” campaign, implemented in 1999 among first-year students, sought to drive home the message that most first-year students consume four or fewer alcoholic beverages per week, relaying that theme through posters in dorms and the use of peer educators. That effort, which had “some good measurements,” will be expanded University-wide this year, said Marianne Bell, a health educator with the University’s Center for Alcohol and Substance Education.

U.Va.’s comprehensive program to address alcohol abuse in fraternities and sororities proposes to change the role of alcohol in the Greek culture.

Susan Bruce
Director, Center for Alcohol
and Substance Education

U.Va.’s new Greek community program proposes to “change the role osf alcohol in the culture,” said Susan Bruce, the center’s director.

“We want to improve the health and safety of U.Va. fraternity and sorority members by developing, enhancing, implementing and evaluating a comprehensive series of programs,” Bruce said.

The program has four strategic components — education, environment, enforcement and early intervention — and an outcome study to measure its effectiveness.

• Educational strategies include training student risk managers in each fraternity and sorority chapter, conducting social-norms marketing within chapters, offering small-group social-norms education delivered by peers, and providing educational speakers followed by peer-led discussions.

• Environmental strategies include providing alcohol-server intervention training for students and awarding mini-grants to provide alcohol-free social events.

• Enforcement strategies include promoting increased communication between the existing student-run Party Patrol and the local community, and providing Party Patrol training for all chapters.

• Early intervention strategies include increased use of the nationally recognized “Prime for Life on Campus” educational program. The curriculum, created by the Kentucky-based Prevention Research Institute, has been taught monthly to U.Va. students referred by either the student-run University Judiciary Committee, the Dean of Students’ office or the Office of Residence Life. Under the new program, classes may be taught to entire fraternity or sorority chapters, Bell said.

The Center for Alcohol and Substance Education plans to measure the program’s effectiveness, Bruce said. In the first year of the project, the center will conduct a baseline assessment of alcohol use, related attitudes, behaviors and consequences. Then two-thirds of U.Va.’s 58 fraternity and sorority chapters will be randomly assigned to either an intervention group, to follow the program outlined above, or a control group, which will follow current guidelines for alcohol education. After a year, a follow-up assessment will measure change in both groups.

In the second year, the programs will be modified based on evaluation results and be made available to all 58 chapters.


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of the University of Virginia

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