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Posted August 30, 2010 | comments Leave a comment

Wiant: Online alcohol classes nice try

A few weeks into my freshman year of college I encountered my first fall-down, don't-even-know-your-own-name, had-to-be-dragged-to-the-toilet drunk.

No, I don't mean I was that drunk, I mean I found myself, along with a few of my friends, in the care of someone else who was that drunk.

I had walked down to the dorm of a high school friend, and one of his roommates had gotten himself into a bad condition trying to earn his way into a fraternity. The frat boys abandoned him for the bar, and we were left deciding what to do.

I'd been exposed to drinking teenagers before, but never like this.

Sitting on the stoop of the dorm, he leaned his entire body weight on me for support. His feet seemed too heavy for him to lift. He was speaking gibberish and reeked of beer and vomit and sweat. I think he'd even lost a shoe.

My other friends eventually called an ambulance, and I went back home.

I was later told that he'd been found to have some ungodly blood alcohol level, and that my friends had made the right call sending him to the hospital.

The overriding thought I was left with was, "I bet he'll never do that again."

So, I was shocked when the next time I encountered him on campus he was slugging back beers.

I don't remember the boy's name and have no idea whatever became of him, but I thought of him last week when I read an Associated Press report that my alma mater, West Virginia University, is now requiring all incoming freshmen and transfer students under the age of 21 to complete an online alcohol education course by a certain date or face a $50 charge.

Officials there say lots of colleges -- "hundreds" to be exact -- are doing it.

According to the campus newspaper, where I found the most specific information about the class, the curriculum includes what an appropriate serving size is for different kinds of alcohol, how to recognize alcohol poisoning, how to avoid binge drinking (um, don't do it?) and the consequences of driving drunk.

The parent in me says, "Well, this is nice."

The WVU grad in me says, "Nice try."

If a night of binge drinking that ends in the hospital doesn't work as a deterrent, what can a series of online videos and quizzes accomplish?

Not only at my own alma mater but at any college, alcohol abuse is a constant and dangerous presence.

It would be great if having students take a class went a long way toward preventing the mistakes, accidents and even tragedies that result when students drink too much, but I am not optimistic.

The parent in me wants to believe it could work.

The WVU grad in me tells me at best it is wasting a lot of effort in an attempt to make parents feel better.

Contact Jessica Wiant at jwiant@nvdaily.com.

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