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Group discusses course revisions

Melissa Flanagan | Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Campus Life Council (CLC) discussed how to improve alcohol education in the mandatory freshman course, Contemporary Topics, at its meeting Monday.

Contemporary Topics, a two-cycle course that all freshmen are required to take during their six-cycles of physical education, spends part of its curriculum discussing alcohol and drug use, specifically at Notre Dame.

“One of the conclusions we’re coming to is that a lot of alcohol education is front-loaded in your first year at Notre Dame,” junior and student body vice president Andrew Bell said.

Because of this, Bell said student government is planning to look closely at alcohol education on campus and determine what’s relevant and what’s not, as well as what can be reiterated beyond freshman year.

Alexa Arastoo, chair of Diversity Council, said the binder of assigned readings for Contemporary Topics should include more information on low-risk drinking and how students can stay in this range if they choose to drink.

“There’s no point of just demonizing it throughout the entire lesson when kids are going to do it,” she said.

Fisher Hall senator Skip McShea said the section on drink equivalencies should be reformed.

“I think the drink equivalencies should be expanded a lot,” he said. “A lot of people really don’t know what they’re drinking.”

Similarly, Arastoo said the section on the amount of alcohol in common mixed drinks is irrelevant to freshmen who don’t go to bars. She recommended instead that the binder include shot equivalencies between different types of hard alcohol.

Mike Oliver, co-chair of Hall Presidents Council, said one of the biggest problems with alcohol education in Contemporary Topics is most freshman do not actually do the assigned readings for the class.

He suggested finding ways to make the readings more appealing.

“I think if the first couple pages were striking statistics and graphs it’d be such a better way to catch someone’s eye,” Oliver said.

Student body president Catherine Soler said one way of combating this might be to make the classes on alcohol education similar to those on diversity, which are student-led by an undergraduate who has experience with the topic.

Toward the end of the class, students break up into small groups and have their own discussions. Students are then required to write a reflection paper on the issue for the next class.

Kelsey Behan, student liaison to senate, said having a student lead the discussion would be a major improvement.

“I think it’d be great to have someone who is closer to our age,” she said. “It gives us someone you can relate to.”

Soler also said it might be helpful if the binder included a laminated page with tips for drinking responsibly that students could take out of the binder and keep after the class ends.

“For example, what to do if your friend gets sick, with contact information on the back,” Soler said.

Sr. Mary Donnelly, rector of Pangborn Hall, said they need to figure out not only get the information out to students, but also convince them to read it.

“Whatever we can do to make this more concise,” she said. “We need to try to draw their attention in.”