The B.C. government, in partnership with UVic’s Centre for Addictions Research and the Canadian Mental Health Association, has undertaken an initiative to promote a healthier drinking culture on B.C. campuses.
The government pledged $400,000 to fund a project co-led by the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research and the Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division, Health Minister Terry Lake announced on Feb. 29.
“Helping to shift the culture towards moderate use at this pivotal point in a young person’s life can help set them on the right track,” Lake said.
The National College Health Assessment survey was completed for Canadian campuses for the first time in 2013. It indicates that among post-secondary students who reported drinking the last time they socialized, 26 per cent had seven or more drinks, and 39 per cent of students who drank alcohol in the last year said they later regretted something they did when drinking.
According to the announcement, researchers from the Centre for Addictions Research and the Mental Health Association will work with key groups on campuses such as student leaders, students in residence and those in their first year in order to create a healthier drinking culture.
“The investment in changing the culture of substance use on postsecondary campuses currently supports locally-developed, centrally-supported projects at 11 institutions,” said Dan Reist, an assistant director at the Centre for Addictions Research.
The examples of existing resources listed in the announcement included the “Drink with Class” campaign at TRU.
“The Drink with Class initiative is an effort to foster positive drinking habits with our students in residence from day one,” said Brandon de Krieger, a Residence Life Coordinator at the TRU residence.
De Krieger said that Drink with Class takes the form of educational campaigns focused on being a good host, post-party chats with residents and new training for Residence Advisors.
“In my first year, there were stories of residence advisors needing to stay up all hours because parties kept being moved throughout the night. In my third year, when Drink with Class was first introduced, it turned around so that residents were willingly telling resident assistants about parties and asking for help in keeping those parties under control,” said Hailee-Jean Lindgren, a TRU Residence Advisor.
According to de Krieger, since the program’s inception two years ago, residence assessments indicate that 30 per cent of residents have changed their drinking habits.
“The culture two years ago was not as healthy as it is today. We are educating our students about alcohol a lot better now than we did back then,” he said.
De Krieger said the campaign tries to harness the positive aspects of drinking alcohol. “We don’t tell students what not to do, instead we try to grow the behaviours that we’d like to see,” de Krieger said.
The government’s announcement came with assurances that the on-campus initiative is just one part of a process of “modernizing B.C.’s liquor laws.” Some other initiatives mentioned in the announcement include minimum drink prices at bars and restaurants and enhanced Serving It Right training for people serving liquor. On March 4, the province issued a press release saying that “any time is a good time for a cocktail in your hotel room” and that hotels would now be able to serve liquor 24 hours a day.