In the summer of 2013, Yale implemented a new online alcohol education program for all incoming freshmen. The program, called , was originally made by a company called Campus Clarity in conjunction with the University of San Francisco. We ( ) worked closely with Campus Clarity to tailor the program to Yale - a process which ultimately included the shooting of six short videos, largely written and acted by current students.
So, why ? In short, because it talks to students like real, independent, intelligent people (you’d think this would be pretty basic, but you’d be surprised). While it clearly states CT state law on underage drinking and Yale’s expectation that students follow it, it doesn’t belabor obvious points or moralize. Instead, the program presents a huge amount of valuable information in about an hour, using videos, articles, interactive exercises, and other media. It recognizes that different students will make vastly different decisions around alcohol, but asserts that all of them, as members of a community where alcohol is present, need to be well informed. And in addition to biological information about alcohol and other drugs, the program also discusses the cultural and social context of drinking at Yale from the perspective of current students.
Our hope is that this program will equip freshmen with all the information they need to make good choices about alcohol and other drugs before they set foot on campus. A culture of dangerous drinking starts from the first weekend of freshman year, so we feel this is a critical step in shifting the overall campus culture towards a better relationship with alcohol.
Overview of the Course
The course begins with the first student video where “Charles” explains his secret superpowers, and a group of Yale students explain why these videos exist.
After a welcome from the Dean of Student Affairs and a basic overview of how the course works, participants are ready to dive in. The bulk of the course starts with another student video where we follow John down two very different paths of a night out (one a lot more linear than the other).
Next the course provides information on a few major topics:
- Alcohol and the Athlete’s Body: Episodes of heavy drinking affect physical performance for days afterward. This is particularly problematic for athletes who depend on their physical stamina to succeed.
- Selection Bias: Studies have shown that students consistently overestimate how many of their peers drink – and how much. This may seem odd at first, but there’s a pretty obvious reason: drinking is more visible than not drinking.
- Academics and Adderall: Sometimes, students feel so pressured by their academic load that they start using stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin (prescription ADHD medications) in hopes of improving their focus and energy. This can be a dangerous practice sometimes leading to addiction, but also to mixed cognitive results. Even a prescription drug is still a drug and should be treated with caution.
We then move on to another student video where a dorm party results in some interactions between neighbors that get a little awkward…
Next there are three short videos where two bartenders give basic drink measurement information, talk about how alcohol affects you physically, and give tips for how to stay safe while drinking. Here are a few highlights:
- First off, not all students drink. More and more students are choosing not to, but those students who do choose to drink need to be informed about alcohol.
- A standard drink is defined as one 12oz beer, one 4-5oz glass of wine, or one shot (1.25oz) of 80 proof liquor. A red plastic cup can hold 12 shots, so measure before you drink!
- Some mixed drinks have more than one shot in them. You need to know how much you are drinking to maximize all the positive things about drinking while minimizing the negative.
- People start to feel the effects of alcohol at about .02 percent blood alcohol content (BAC). At around .06 percent BAC the positive effects of alcohol are maximized. Most people feel relaxed, social, and in control. Once your BAC goes past .06 percent the negative effects of alcohol begin to kick in. Sluggishness, lack of coordination, and eventually sickness.
- To figure out how to keep your BAC at the ideal level you can use our awesome BAC Calculator on this site LINK.
- After you pass .06 BAC, you start to lose your buzz; and once it is gone, you can’t get it back. Alcohol affects the body differently when the BAC is rising as opposed to falling. To get back to the buzzed feeling you would need to sober up completely and start over.
- The only thing that will sober you up is time. Not coffee, or a cold shower. Just time.
- The average person can metabolize one drink each hour. Consuming a high number of drinks in a short amount of time will not speed up the metallization process. It will still take your body the same amount of time to become sober again, but you could get very sick before that happens.
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol quickly also increases the likelihood of blacking out.
- Alcohol affects everyone differently depending on size, sex, food consumption, and to some extent genetics.
- Again, you don’t have to drink at a party, even if others are. You can refuse a drink or ask for something different.
- Alternate alcoholic with non-alcoholic drinks. Alcohol dehydrates you and that leads to hangovers.
- Make sure you have a safe way to get home, and that your friends do as well.
We know, that’s a LOT of information, but you can handle it!
Next we explore the logic of heavy pre-gaming. Eddie is really, really, really into brushing his teeth. Explanations and further oddities follow.
After Eddie successfully navigates Amanda’s pre-game the course offers a comprehensive list of smart drinking strategies for before, during, and after a night out. Many of them are common sense, but a few are surprising. For example, did you know that alcohol interferes with normal sleep cycles? After a heavy night of drinking it is difficult for the body to go into REM sleep, so people often wake up feeling like they haven’t slept at all.
Alcohol and sex are often connected in a college environment, so no course on alcohol would be complete without looking at how drinking and romance (both sort term and long term) connect. The student video Hook-App follows three people who use a social networking app that pressures them to drink in order to express their interest in others.
Remember, you don’t have to be drunk to hook up. In fact, you don’t have to be anything specific to hook up. All you need is your cute self and an enthusiastic partner.
While alcohol can be a healthy, normal part of life, sometimes people drink too much and need help. It is important that everyone is able to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning:
- If the person can’t walk on their own.
- If the person can’t respond to simple commands or questions.
- If the person cannot stop vomiting.
- If the person is passed out and will not wake up. (Duh.)
If any of those three signs are present the person needs to go to the hospital as soon as possible. Remember, Yale students to not receive disciplinary consequences for intoxication alone so you can always call an ambulance for a friend without worry that they will get in trouble for drinking.
So how much alcohol is too much? The next section teaches students about factors contributing to Blood Alcohol Content and the the safe range for individuals who choose to consume alcohol.
Alcohol is not the only drug available. The next section of the course looks at other mind altering substances and the effects they have on people both sort term and long term. Besides the possibility of addiction, arrest, and the alteration of future plans there are serious long term health risks associated with both alcohol and other drugs. All drugs (both illegal and prescription) are controlled substances for a reason.
This section is followed by an interview with a psychologist who specializes in college students. She talks through the dangers of self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs, and also looks at what it is like for students who have a difficult time controlling their consumption or suffer from addiction.
As a community we need to be aware of those who live with addiction. NEVER pressure someone to drink. You don’t know their story and you could be making life very difficult for them.
Next the course gives an honest advertisement for blacking out.
The course continues with a series of bystander intervention scenarios. Learning to intervene in situations involving alcohol can be difficult, but it is possible and will help shape a better campus culture for everyone. Following the scenarios there is an advertisement for the “Least Interesting Man in the World.”
To wrap up, the students appear in one final video where they give their final down-and-dirty advice about alcohol, and an underappreciated superhero trains his sidekick.
And there you have it. An hour’s worth of intense alcohol education. If you haven’t been through the program and would like to see it all put together we would be happy to set you up. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get you started!
For Entertainment Purposes Only
Yale’s alcohol education has come a long way: take a look at this 1954 alcohol PSA from the Yale Center for Alcohol Studies. Susan and “the gang” sure are having a swell time with their phonograph – until something spoils the good time everyone is having.