Safe Party Tip #1: eat a high-protein meal before and during partying. This will help you moderate your alcohol consumption and slow your absorption rate.
Just a helpful hint from the Safe Party Initiative, a collaborative effort between the city of Davis and the University of California, Davis whose purpose is to reduce the problems related to college drinking and large-scale social gatherings.
As thousands of incoming first-years flood the dorms this week, many will choose to inaugurate their college careers with a beer (or two) at a local party. For the Safe Party Initiative, the goal is to educate students how to party safely and how to party responsibly – without the use of fear tactics.
Instead of making college drinking a police or campus disciplinary problem, the Safe Party Initiative aims to “reframe” the issue as a “community health and safety responsibility,” according to its website.
“We know that a certain percentage of students engage in drinking, and we want to provide them with information on the laws … drinking is a personal choice,” said Cindy V. Valencia, the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Risk Reduction Health Educator at Health Education and Promotion (HEP). “When we go out and provide our safe party information, it’s not only for students 21 and over – this is for all students.“
“The Safe Party Initiative … focuses on creating safer party environments by building a closer sense of community between students and neighbors, promoting safety at parties, and increasing enforcement of alcohol-related laws and policies,” reads their website.
An easy-to-navigate website -safeparty.ucdavis.edu – provides tips on responsible drinking, the signs of alcohol poisoning, and facts regarding government and campus laws and policies.
E-Chug, a campus-wide Internet survey begun in fall of 2006, has been a popular tool offered by the Safe Party Initiative. It allows students to compare their alcohol use with those of other UC Davis students.
“E-Chug is an evidence-based, online … personalized feedback tool,” Valencia said. “The goal is to get students to assess their alcohol consumption, or for students who don’t drink, they can compare their drinking or non-drinking as a comparison. It’s interesting, and only takes about 5-10 minutes.
The point of E-Chug, said Valencia, is for people to assess their drinking habits to reduce the number of alcohol-related problems through personal feedback.
Participants of the survey can print out a certificate of completion redeemable for a five-dollar gift certificate to Redrum Burger, or 25 percent off a Safe Party t-shirt. Valencia said over a thousand students participated in the survey last school year.
E-Chug, as well as other surveys like the National College Health Assessment and the Safer California Universities Survey, helps students to learn the differences between drinking realities. For example, data shows that 43% of UC Davis students choose not to drink when they party, and that most do not binge drink (5 or more drinks per sitting for men, 4 for women).
“There’s a misconception out there that everybody’s drinking, and the numbers don’t back that up,” said Ron Ronquillo, assistant director for the office of student development at Student Housing.
“I think peer pressure is the most intense experience they have when they first come to college,” added Aurora Cruz, a former ATOD intern at HEP. “It causes people to do things they normally wouldn’t do and put themselves in unsafe situations. We are trying to give them tools they need to avoid falling prey to peer pressure.“
Cruz said events like Davis Neighbor’s Night Out (DNNO) are important because they show students alternatives to a night of drinking and the ensuing peer pressure.
“DNNO is co-sponsored by the city, the campus [administration] and ASUCD, and it started as a result of the initiative. In 2005 it was a single block party, and by last year there were about 87 parties throughout the town,” Valencia said. “[It’s an opportunity for students] to develop friendly, respective relationships with their neighbors, and overall, to foster community.”
DNNO will be held Sunday Oct. 11 this year.
Despite the alternatives Davis has to offer, partying (and alcohol consumption) will likely remain a popular pastime, particularly in the upcoming weeks – and the Davis police will be there to make sure students remain safe.
“We know and we understand what’s going to happen, we know students are going … to want to go to parties. The message we want to get across is a little moderation [and] a little responsibility,” said Officer John Evans. “We just want to see everybody get home safely and not cause a huge mess.”
The Safe Party Initiative arose from a five-year, $6.9 million study of alcohol-related problems at 14 California universities. UC Davis was one of seven participating campuses that developed a coordinated campus-community strategy for reducing high-risk drinking.
Valencia says the initiative has been very successful.
“Over the last four years, the Safe Party Initiative has decreased underage drinking and reduced the number of alcohol in the past 30 days … this fall we will continue to help reduce these numbers,” she said.
ANDRE LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.