New Alcohol Education Targets Bystanders

Pomona College will begin a new alcohol education and bystander intervention program Oct. 15. 

The Teaching Alcohol Abuse Prevention (TAAP) program, which is aimed at first-years, will work in conjunction with the online AlcoholEdu training that all first-years must take.

“Some of it is a follow-up to AlcoholEdu, which has a lot of great information, tools, education to help you make some informed decisions about alcohol, but what we found is that sometimes once you get onto campus and start experiencing campus culture, party culture, it’s helpful to do some reminders and some review,” said Smith Campus Center (SCC) Assistant Director Ellie Ash-Bala, who is organizing the program.

According to an e-mail Ash-Bala sent to first-years, students will receive ten dollars in Claremont Cash for attending one of six 90-minute sessions.

At each session, which will be led by an administrator and student leader, students will participate in break-out discussion groups and live discussions, Ash-Bala said. They will also use clickers to anonymously answer survey questions about their drinking habits and perception of alcohol culture.

“Very often, the assumption for first-years coming in is, ‘Oh, everybody’s drinking,'” said Associate Dean of Students Chris Waugh, who is coordinating the program with Ash-Bala. “Very often when we do exercises like this, and when we look at national data as well, there is a critical mass of students who are choosing not to drink. Some students, if they choose to drink, do so very moderately.”

“There is only a very small amount of students who are actually dangerously drinking, but yet, that seems to be what everybody thinks everyone is doing, because it’s more visible,” he added.

A large portion of the seminar will focus on bystander behavior.

“Very often, the classic good Samaritan bystander situation is when you encounter someone passed out on the road, do you help or not? That is bystander behavior, but what about two hours before that?” Waugh said.

The program will encourage students to actively prevent dangerous situations.

“I can’t think of a situation where a student has over-drank who hasn’t had friends around them who could have stepped in,” Waugh said.

“There are a lot of times when people are pre-gaming, someone may be going through a lot of shots, and there are a lot of people around, but no one is taking the initiative to say, ‘Maybe you’ve had enough,’” said Joseph Reynolds PO ’15, one of the three student leaders facilitating the discussions.

“There’s a terrible stigma around that because you become the party pooper,” he said.

He added, “I want [people who are drinking] to know that when someone approaches you and says, ‘Hey, you’ve had five shots, maybe you should slow down,’ it’s not a challenge. It’s more of a helping hand and someone showing that they care.”

Reynolds said he has seen bystanders step in to help, but he thinks they could have benefited from more information.

“I had to take care of a student who was transported this year, and the kids who were around and willing to help, yet there were a lot of misconceptions and myths that they were suggesting as ways to help the student,” he said.

Reynolds said he hopes that once student leaders reach out to the community, students will be more receptive to the information.

“My purpose as a student facilitator on TAAP is to make TAAP as real as it can be and show that the information given to the students isn’t being preached to them,” he said. “It’s pretty practical and pretty relevant.”

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