New, mandatory abuse-prevention course now online

Lauren Roberts

Beginning in the spring 2015 semester students are going to start seeing a new hold on their accounts that could slow their ability to register for classes.

Campus Clarit3y’s “Think About It” is a new online course that was rolled out over the summer and replaces AlcoholEDU. All freshman and recent transfer students are required to take the self-paced online course within their first year on campus. Failure to do so will result in the registration hold.

Previously, administrators used AlcoholEDU to maintain compliance with the Drug Free School’s and Community Act of 1989 which amends the Higher Education Act requiring colleges and universities receiving federal financial aid, which 40 percent of MSU students receive in the form of Pell Grants, to establish drug and alcohol prevention for students.

Matthew Park, associate vice president for student affairs, said, “If a student did not complete AlcoholEDU they received a conduct sanction such as, if they were responsible for a violation of the university’s alcohol or drug policy they were automatically bumped to the next higher level of sanctioning. Instead of it being considered the first offense, it is considered the second offense.”

The AlcoholEDU program became available in 2008 and in the years since AlcoholEDU was completed by only 28.7 percent of freshman and new transfer students.

Park said, “Through the wisdom of our elected officials, MSU now has more of this care-taking and development role in high risk behaviors; alcohol, drugs, sex.”

In March 2014 the U.S. Department of Education began enforcing the Campus SaVE Act, which affects every post-secondary institution participating in Title IV financial aid programs. The act said that colleges receiving federal financial aid must now also provide primary prevention programming for sexual misconduct. The added requirements from the SaVE Act required administrators to either continue using AlcoholEDU and add a new course with the SaVE Act requirements, or find a new course that covered all of it.

Counseling Center Director Pam Midgett said, “Rather than have students take one course about those topics and then the AlcoholEDU course, we decided, let’s put all of it together. Let’s drop the AlcoholEDU and let’s do this “Think About It” course that will train students on sexual assault issues and alcohol use. That was the reason behind changing from [AlcoholEDU] to [Campus Clarity].”

Although “Think About It” covers more content, the course is actually shorter than AlcoholEDU and students should be able to finish in less than two and a half hours. The course is more interactive than AlcoholEDU with quizzes, videos, slideshows and badges students can earn to encourage them to complete the course.

“Think About It” provides information on how students can identify and report sexual misconduct and how students can be involved in prevention and  awareness programs to promote an awareness of rape, acquaintance rape, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

Allyson Green, music performance and education freshman, said a course on sexual assault should be separate from a course on alcohol.

“Everybody knows about alcohol. You get informed about alcohol at the beginning of the year before you come to school, what you can and cannot do with it and what age you have to be,” Green said. “It should be a separate program so you understand sexual violence and get what’s talked about.”

In choosing the course, Midgett said they wanted it to be user-friendly to students.

“We’re very aware that students are under a lot of pressure to take their classes, learn all of the information in their textbooks and do well. Some have jobs and family responsibilities,” Midgett said. “We wanted to make the best use of a students time and to make it as clear as possible and make it a one-stop shop that this is the one course you have to take.”

Midgett said in having a single course it shows the connection between alcohol use and sexual assault and inappropriate sexual behaviors.

Dejon Ahaye, criminal justice senior, said, “I think it’s a good thing because it’s also telling you about all the dangers that are out there and some of the things that people fall into. It’s letting you know what to be aware of.”

Along with the change from AlcoholEDU, the Counseling Center oversees the prevention course instead of the student conduct office. The center keeps up with who has completed the course and who has not, and in the spring the center will take the list of names that haven’t completed the course to the business office to have the holds placed on students’ accounts.

Midgett said, “All counselors in the center have taken the Campus Clarity course. We are familiar with it and we know that there is some really good information in the course, and so if we have a student that we are seeing in therapy in the office and maybe it’s not a new student. Maybe it’s a senior level student or a 45-year-old student, we can tell them about the course and sign them up to take the course. We are involved in that way but if a student later on after taking the course violates any policy on campus they are going to go through the Dean of Students or the judicial affairs office.”

The reason for the non-completion penalty is important, according to Park, as non-compliance with the program can cost the university money.

“It affects our ability to receive federal funds in the form of financial aid for students. Now universities are required to do a lot more than educate students for their professions,” Park said. “There is now an added accountability compliance we have to look at because of the SaVE Act piece that is on top of the Drug Free School’s and Community piece.”

Now that “Think About It” is up and running, Park said the plan is to get to the point where students coming to the university will finish the course before they start classes in the fall.

“When those students come over the summer we can get them their log-in information and they can utilization the rest of the summer and complete it before they begin classes,” Park said.

However, there are exceptions to the “Think About It” requirement that could excuse some students from taking it.

Midgett said, “If any student believes they have a reasonable objection to not take “Think About It” they can make a request in writing to the Counseling Center for consideration.”

If a transfer student is able to show completion of a similar course from a previous institution the student will need to communicate with either student affairs or the counseling center.

“They will need a certification or a document or we can make a phone call to that institution to check,” Park.

More than 200 students have already completed the “Think About It” course and Park said that most will complete the course in the spring semester prior to registration for the fall.

Park said, “When school is out of session, over the semester break take two hours out of the near month you’re going to have off and you knock this thing out and you’re good to go.”