Alcohol Office Ends Free Water Bottle and Screening Event

The Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services is discontinuing its annual National Alcohol Screening Day, an event intended to evaluate students’ drinking habits made popular by its distribution of free CamelBak water bottles.

Members of DAPA distribute free Camelbak water bottles during a NASD event.

At previous NASD outreach events, sponsored by AODS and the Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisors, participants completed anonymous surveys about their alcohol consumption followed by a private consultation with a health professional to discuss their results.

Garrett O. Fitzgerald, in his first semester as director of AODS, said his office decided to cancel the event due to budget constraints, the inefficiency NASD had targeting “high-risk” students, and the inability to make “general assumptions” based on the collected data. He added that conversations to cancel the event had already begun before he joined AODS in August.

“The challenge that we were facing, in somewhat of a limited budget situation is: Are we having the type of reach, the type of engagement with the students that need our assistance, and is this the most effective use of our resources?” he said.

Fitzgerald described a high-risk drinker as a chronic abuser of alcohol, though that behavior may not be visibly apparent.

“It is actually very unlikely to be someone that you see become hospitalized, or even have a major incident that would be visible, because they have almost become a professional at their particular substance,” he said.

In May 2015, AODS recorded that 2,159 participants were screened, representing roughly a third of the College population. Of the participants surveyed that year, only 39 students were classified in the “higher risk” category based on self-reported responses, according to Fitzgerald, and he did not have data from the most recent NASD in December 2015.

DAPA President Alex F. Dagi ’17 wrote in an email that “the choice was not made by DAPAs, specifically, but was driven by the Office's understanding that we were not targeting those highest at risk through the event and thus the costs were not justified.”

DAPA is currently organizing other outreach events such as study breaks, yoga, and SoulCycle sessions. “We are constantly thinking about new and creative ways through which we can engage with students and inspire culture change surrounding alcohol use on campus,” Dagi wrote.

Fitzgerald did say it was difficult to discontinue NASD because the initiative—held every year since the founding of AODS in 2005—had become popular among College students.

“It became a cultural thing, which is great, but not the model that we needed for the explicit goal of reaching students that had high risk and being able to bring them in and address that need,” he said.

Fitzgerald is the third director of AODS, and came following the departure of longtime director Ryan M. Travia in the spring of 2015. Travia oversaw the 2010 NASD event at which The Crimson reported a then-record high 1,330 students participated.

DAPA declined an in-person interview, citing the organization’s policy to only respond to provide email comment.

—Staff writer Menaka V. Narayanan can be reached at menaka.narayanan@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @mnarayanan97.

—Staff writer Kenton K. Shimozaki can be reached at kenton.shimozaki@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @KentonShimozaki.

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