UNL students promote alcohol awareness on campus

Story by Emily Giller, NewsNetNebraska

For senior marketing major Alyssa McCrady and many other college students, drinking had become a routine habit. By her sophomore year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the habit she developed as a freshman was becoming a problem.

“I had never drank in high school but once I was in college, my friend corrupted me,” said McCrady, an Omaha native, right before her tone became serious. “That was it, [sophomore year] was bad. I mean there were plenty of times I drank before, but those were the moments I was like ‘Wow, what is my life?’”

College campuses, such as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, recognize students’ drinking habits and try to promote alcohol awareness on campus. According to Linda Major, student affairs assistant to the chancellor, UNL is nationally recognized for its efforts to reduce high-risk drinking among students. UNL groups such as Husker Choices and Gamma Phi Beta sorority also are helping to spread the message about alcohol awareness in an effort to educate others.

McCrady came to UNL in 2008 and excelled in school during her first year. However, once drinking became a habit, she slowly started missing tests and her grades plummeted. She was placed on academic probation her sophomore year.

Problems such as poor academic performance, legal challenges, relationship difficulties and physical injury are some of the issues facing student drinkers, Major said. Full-time college students between the ages of 18-25 are more likely to drink than non-student peers, she noted.

“I think UNL could increase the sophistication of its alcohol messaging, such as create developmental messaging. Education for those 21 years of age and older may be different than messages for first-year students,” Major said.

Gamma Phi Beta sorority is one group that is trying to educate students about alcohol after it suffered its own personal tragedy. Gamma Phi joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in co-sponsoring a week-long alcohol awareness program called “Do It Sober” after the death of Laura Cockson, a Gamma Phi Beta member, who was killed by a drunken driver in 2006.

“We help plan ‘Do It Sober’ every year because we have seen the terrible effects drunken driving can have and, it helps us keep Laura’s story alive every year,” said Alicia Walz, Gamma Phi Beta’s philanthropy chair. “It also helps us make the student population as a whole aware of the consequences of their actions should they choose to drink irresponsibly.”

Besides encouraging individuals to make the right decision, alcohol awareness programs such as “Do It Sober” can give students the education they need to keep their friends accountable for their actions, she said.

Despite all the efforts, though, sometimes the pressure to consume alcohol is too overwhelming.

“My friend had an alcoholic father and she came to college with the mind-set that drinking was good,” McCrady said. “She would call me on Sunday nights at like 10 p.m. to go out and I would go.”

Eventually it got to the point that McCrady started going out during the week. In turn, she would oversleep and miss tests.

“I should have known better, but when you first come to college you want to be involved in everything, including parties,” McCrady said.

McCrady’s friend left UNL to move back to Omaha and McCrady was able to get her education back on track.

McCrady’s situation is not uncommon. Although many people have had some sort of alcohol education experience, they still choose to participate in dangerous drinking habits such as binge drinking, drinking and driving, and underage drinking, said Zach Watson, the president of Husker Choices at UNL. People need to have enough knowledge about alcohol to interact with it safely and realize that they are responsible for their actions, he said.

“Even those who have heard facts and figures about alcohol abuse before can always use a good reminder that there can be severe consequences if alcohol is used improperly,” Watson said. “Alcohol education is a way to protect yourself and others.”

Members of Husker Choices, a recognized student organization, give alcohol awareness presentations for fraternities, sororities and residence halls. The group also educates students through on-campus campaigns.

“As long as there are students who need additional education on alcohol, Husker Choices will be here to help,” Watson said.

To help spread the message further, Husker Choices is accepting applications for new members who want to make an impact on their fellow students. Students who are interested can fill out an application at the group’s Facebook page or send an email to huskerchoices@yahoo.com for more information.

“The last thing I encourage you to do is to educate yourself and put that education to use,” Watson said. “Be a role model and if you choose to drink, do so responsibly.”