More than 33 percent of the students who drop out of Cal Poly do so because of alcohol-related problems according to Karen Hord, a Health Center staff physician.
The Health Education Department requires incoming students to take Alcohol-Wise, an online course on alcohol education and awareness, the summer before they start at Cal Poly to be prepared for what decisions they are going to have to make upon entering a new environment.
The test is sent out electronically in July approximately two weeks before Student Orientation, Advising and Registration (Soar). There are sessions during Soar for students as well as parents to learn about the quiz. There is even a parent version of Alcohol-Wise so parents can understand what their children are being asked to do.
“Administrators view incoming students’ Alcohol-Wise results for statistical and educational reasons,” Health Education Department Director Rojean York-Dominguez said. “It’s helpful for administrators to create programs based on the outcomes.”
In addition to sessions about Alcohol-Wise during Soar, programming in the residence halls through the Coordinators of Student Development (CSDs) and the new implementation of substance-free housing in the Connections Learning Community are all programs resulting from the outcomes of Alcohol-Wise.
“From the results of the 2012 quiz, we found that 53 percent of incoming students had never drank alcohol prior to their arrival, 29 percent did not drink until age 17 or older and 5 percent did not drink until age 16 or older,” York-Dominguez said.
Of the 34 percent of incoming students who had said they had consumed alcohol before college, the main reasons they said they chose to do so was to fit in and to feel more attractive. After 45 days, the students are asked to take a second assessment to see if their opinions have changed since their arrival at Cal Poly. There was a 25 percent drop in this perception after the 45 days.
The results of the first assessment showed that more than 50 percent of students were unaware that carbonated beverages and alcohol have a compounding effect that speeds up intoxication. This perception also changed after students took the second assessment.
Adrienne Miller, Director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, said that it is very important for incoming freshmen to review information on alcohol before entering into a new environment. Students need to anticipate situations and figure out how they plan to respond to them.
“Freshmen are just meeting new friends when they get here and they need to learn to not accept every invitation that comes their way,” Miller said.
Miller primarily deals with disciplining students who have broken Cal Poly’s alcohol policy in some way. Depending on the severity of the crime committed, disciplinary actions can range from having the student participate in educational activities to suspension.
“Students tend to get in trouble when they are blindsided by the rules,” Miller said.
A new version of the university’s alcohol policy is currently being drafted, and Miller hopes to spread the policy more than it has been in the past so that students know what consequences they’re actions on and off campus could have.
York-Dominguez also has a personal goal to have the Alcohol-Wise online quiz be an official part of the acceptance process. She said she wishes it was a required form that students would have to fill out when they accept admission to Cal Poly so that the participation rate of students taking the quiz is 100 percent.
“In 2011, 98 percent of students took the Alcohol-Wise quiz. In 2012, 87 percent of students filled it out,” York-Dominguez said. “We are not exactly sure why the participation rate decreased.”
During the summer and into the beginning of fall quarter, York-Dominguez gets a daily report of who hasn’t completed the quiz and she is in charge of sending out email reminders to those students.
“Cal Poly actually pays for the course, unlike many other schools that charge their students to take the required quiz,” York-Dominguez said. “I think we should have 100 percent participation.”