The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

UW-EC given $300K to reduce drinking

The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded UW-Eau Claire a $300,000 grant to help reduce drinking among its students, mainly those entering their first year at the university.

The grant, which gives Eau Claire $150,000 each year for two years, will help the university fund multiple methods to address alcohol-related issues, such as the creation of a Center for Alcohol Studies and Education, public awareness marketing campaigns and overtime pay for police to strengthen enforcement.

The goals are to help Eau Claire reduce its alcohol use by 10 percent for first-year students and to decrease the negative consequences of high-risk drinking by 10 percent. In addition, the grant will be used to try to reduce the number of impaired drivers by 15 percent and to increase awareness of the misperceptions of social norms and alcohol policies by 20 percent, according to the grant.

“What students need to know is that there are risks associated with underage drinking,” said Jodi Thesing-Ritter, associate dean of Student Development and Diversity. “We want to reduce both the volume that students consume as well as underage

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Alcohol consumption at Eau Claire surpassed the national norm in 2004, according to the results of the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey.

The survey reported nearly 83 percent of Eau Claire students consumed alcohol in the last 30 days, compared to the national average of 69 percent. In addition, the survey found that 91.4 percent of Eau Claire students drink, while 57.6 percent claim they binge drink.

The effort to reduce alcohol misuse is not focused on just the university, but on the entire community, Thesing-Ritter said.

“(The grant) stretches out beyond campus. It goes into the community,” said Pamela Radcliffe, the Substance Abuse Prevention Project coordinator for the Eau Claire County Health Department. “Everybody’s realistic to know that you’re not going to prevent every kid from drinking. If you can educate them to do it safely … that’s really important.”

To make an impact, Thesing-Ritter said the approach won’t be just educational, but also environmental.

This will help change the atmosphere in which alcohol is accepted by using techniques proven to be successful nationally, such as targeting access to alcohol, increasing enforcement and studying alcohol advertising placement and its

effectiveness, Theising-Ritter said.

Citing the decrease in smoking as a socially acceptable norm, Radcliffe said it’s possible for alcohol to follow suit, but it would need to be accompanied by education to be successful.

“If you change the environment without educating the public about why you’re changing the environment, you’re not going to have as much of an effect,” she said.

While freshman Tanner Kabat said he wouldn’t mind attending programs involving alcohol education, he feels the grant won’t be beneficial.

“I don’t think it’s going to have any effect at all,” he said. “People still (drink) no matter what.”

Brain Schwechel, owner of The Brat Kabin, 314 Water St., said even though community involvement will be a key component in this effort, the grant’s success will still come down to students being responsible.

The culture and attitude of today’s society, Eau Claire community member Ralph Hudson said, are the main reasons why alcohol abuse exists. With the new approach the grant funding provides, he said a positive mentality eventually can be achieved by not only the students, but also the community.

“Isn’t it good that we are at least trying to do something positive without a preachment?” he said. “All people on the college level have great promise.”

The Center for Alcohol Studies and Education will be in rooms 2104 through 2108 in the Old Library. With the semester already in motion, Thesing-Ritter said the next step will be hiring student employees to work for it.

“People are just ready to make it a safer campus,” she said. “We don’t expect everybody to go out and get trashed. We expect them to be safe.”

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UW-EC given $300K to reduce drinking