RU’s Alcohol Awareness Predates Student Death

Rutgers Counseling Center

Rutgers Counseling Center

by: Sung Yi
The suspected alcohol-related death of 19-year-old Caitlyn Kovacs shocked many students. Rutgers University is responding with various alcohol programs offering help if affected by the event.

The Rutgers community has been increasing its focus on safe drinking through various programs and campaigns to strengthen student knowledge on safe drinking within the past few years. CAPS (Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program, and Psychiatric services), as well as other programs on campus offer a wide variety of services for students.

A program offered for alcohol awareness, “RU Sure? Changing the Culture of College Drinking,” a social norms campaign project aims to change freshman students’ misperception of binge drinking.

Dr. Lea Stewart, Livingston Campus dean and director of Communications and Health Issues (CHI), is in charge of the RU SURE campaign. The social-norms campaign is not only aimed to raise awareness of the misperceptions of alcohol use, but to also educate students of the true statistics of drinking on campus.

The campaign’s main message to students is that “2/3 Rutgers student’s stop at three or fewer drinks. Almost 1/5 don’t drink at all.”

“We are trying to publicize the true statistics of drinking, and there is an inflated notion of alcohol that is not nearly as high as we hear about,” Stewart said. “If you Google college drinking, you will see it is all a perception that media such as movies and entertainment portray.”

Joseph Bae, the marketing coordinator for CHI and a recent Rutgers graduate, helps coordinate RU SURE marketing efforts.

“We know drinking is happening and want to promote a safe way for [students],” said Bae. “I hope a lot of good will come out of this campaign, and it’s for their sake. They shouldn’t try to handle it on their own.”

Alyssa Miele, a 21-year-old School of Engineering senior, is aware of RU SURE’s message to students.

“I’ve heard of the campaign, but not much other than the statistics so I’m not too sure how effective the whole campaign really is,” Miele said. “I know for a fact that most, if not all Greek organizations advocate safe drinking as well. They have speakers occasionally on this very issue.”

The campaign also advocates and promotes the Lifeline Legislation, which states that minors are able to call 911 for help in the event of an alcohol medical emergency and immunity will be provided from prosecution. The minor reporting the emergency, as well as the one receiving medical attention, will be immune from prosecution as long as they cooperate with the medical and law enforcement personnel on the scene.

Freshman Grace Kang, a public health major in the School of Arts and Sciences was unaware of the Lifeline Legislation which was enacted in 2009, but believes that the current programs available for students are a safe and great way to get help.

“I feel very safe and comfortable with the alcohol and drug abuse programs because I’m sure they would be a great help to those who need it,” Kang said. “I’ve never been in a situation where there was an emergency because of alcohol and drugs, but if I was, I would probably directly call 911 because they would know best how to handle the situation.”

A residential assistant on Livingston Campus said the information on the Lifeline Legislation is given to all residents at mandatory first house meetings and is public knowledge. CHI is generally affiliated with the Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program and assists in Recovery House events. ADAP offers free counseling and information for those concerned with drug or alcohol use or abuse.

Lisa Laitman, director of ADAP, says the program trains RAs so that they know and how to refer students.

“All staff receive information about our services, we receive referrals from many departments on campus,” said Laitman. “As you can imagine, making sure 44,000 students have this information is probably not possible but we certainly make sure that many people who come in contact with students know about us.”

Alcohol programs say that it is important to be aware of the help available whether it is medical, psychological, or emotional. And when drinking always make sure to be safe, and know your limit.

“Drink at a pace that’s good for you,” said Miele. “Watch out for your friends especially, if you go out together, make sure you all get home safely together.”

ADAP also offers support for students in recovery and who need treatment, for more information go to: http://rhscaps.rutgers.edu/services/adap-recovery-housing

For more information on RU Sure campaign: http://commandhealthissues.rutgers.edu/ru-sure.html

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