Dr. Thomas Vander Ven, a sociologist at Ohio University recently published a book, Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party Too Hard. Dr. Vander Ven presents an interesting perspective on college student drinking through the eyes of a sociologist. He argues that college students drink in groups and not as individuals; therefore drinking becomes more of a social process than an individual event. Dr. Vander Ven also points to the fact that students are taking care of each other while they are drinking as evidenced by his research findings and discovers that there is a sense of community among drinkers. In the end, Dr. Vander Ven closes with an interesting request of students, “take care of each other”.
The notion of students taking care of each other and stepping in to intervene when someone needs help is the basis of bystander intervention models. Campuses are beginning to move in the direction of creating a supportive environment for people to intervene and look out for each other through the implementation of Medical Amnesty/Good Samaritan policies and programs such as the Red Watch Band training to name a few examples. What if we started looking at the concept of bystander intervention on a broader continuum and pondered the possibility of moving more toward prevention with the end result being that students intervene earlier before their friends get to the point of an emergency type situation such as alcohol poisoning?
From the college prevention perspective at UA, we aspire to build greater awareness of our connectedness to each other in all aspects of our university community, not only inside the classroom but also in all ways outside the classroom on campus and beyond. Among our peer education programs, daily Health Hut messages across campus, and our formal programs (Red Watch, Good Samaritan policy, E-Learning modules in freshmen courses, class presentations, etc), we promote caring regard for each other when it comes to safety and wellbeing. When a friend or peer needs help, our message is clear: be that friend, step up and make a difference, do the right thing for the right reason, and be a caring person to see that when help is needed, help is sought. We know that sometimes giving help, when needed, is not always easy. We encourage, equip with information, and empower students and their organizations to observe and intervene early when safety is an issue. Our Capstone Creed, written by students, is the standard for the environment and caring culture that we aspire to achieve and maintain:
“As a member of the University of Alabama community, I will pursue knowledge; act with fairness, honesty, and respect; foster individual and civic responsibility; and strive for excellence."
Delynne Wilcox, Ph.D., MPH, CHES
Assistant Director, Health Planning & Prevention
Dept. of Health Promotion & Wellness
Student Health Center
The University of Alabama