West Virginia State University plans to implement a campus-wide alcohol awareness program using funding from a recently awarded NCAA CHOICES grant to the school’s athletics department.
Through a variety of different components of the program, like the #WVSUStepsUp! campaign and the #SetTheExpectationPledge campaign, students will learn about the harmful effects of alcohol abuse and be encouraged to make smart choices.
“We at State have been very successful in engaging all students in awareness campaigns and educational trainings to challenge college students’ beliefs about alcohol consumption in their peers, as well as the harmful effects of binge drinking,” said Robin Tabor, mental health specialist at West Virginia State University. “This message is delivered by college students educating their peers, which has been shown to be highly successful.”
The #WVSUStepsUp! campaign, which is the main component of the program, will encourage students to practice safe social behaviors and intervene in situations where others are partaking in harmful drinking habits. The campaign will be modeled after the successful Step UP! bystander intervention program developed by Arizona State, according to sports information director James Garcia.
The #SetTheExpectationPledge is another component of the program and is specific to WVSU student-athletes. All student-athletes will make the pledge to not engage in harmful behavior such as rape, sexual assault, physical violence, domestic violence, stalking, bullying, and taking or sharing photos and videos of a sexually explicit nature, at the beginning of each academic year.
The #SetTheExpectationPledge campaign will combat these types of harmful behaviors by calling upon West Virginia State student-athletes to set a good example for the general student body.
“The NCAA CHOICES Grant is targeted specifically at student-athletes because it is still undetermined if it is their competitive nature or celebratory, but they continue to have a higher rate of binge drinking than non-athletes,” Tabor said. “We know that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to compromised motor skills, decreased coordination, delayed reactions, diminished judgment and impaired balance.
“In addition, alcohol can also negatively affect sleep, recovery from injury, and the production of hormones associated with muscular growth.”
Kellie Toledo, director of Counseling and Accessibility Services at State, said the program was funded through the NCAA, which is geared towards educating athletes, as was the NCAA CHOICES grant. However, an interesting component of the grant was the NCAA’s interest in also including the entire student body, so that university events, awareness campaigns and education components would be applicable to all students.
The alcohol awareness program will also highlight National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week, which aims to bring attention to serious public health issues posed by excessive drinking among college students during large celebrations on campus, as well as to promoting a safe spring break week, which will focus on topics including personal safety, highway safety, impaired driving, alcohol poisoning, sleep deprivation and sun safety.
“I think [with] incoming college students, it’s a good idea to have awareness programs and education around alcohol,” Toledo said. “It’s the first time that many students are out on their own [and] away from their parents’ homes. Making good choices is really important and [so is] learning consequences of drinking too much or underage drinking or [learning] how to help a friend. It’s a perfect time to provide that education to students.”
The NCAA CHOICES grant will guarantee funding for these programs for three years, but the continuation of these programs after the grant period ends will rely on the support of the university and the athletics department.
The grant was a collaboration between WVSU’s athletic department and counseling and accessibility services.
“As we continue to grow our strength in athletics at State, we want to absolutely support the health of our students,” Tabor said. “As student leaders, [student athletes] are the perfect genre to spread the message and act as mentors to others.”