Peer Counselors at Dartmouth Give Students Alcohol Advice

HANOVER, N.H.--With its winter carnivals, fraternities and long winter nights. Dartmouth has long held a reputation as a drinking school, but a program designed to change that image is raising student awareness about the dangers of alcohol abuse, Dartmouth officials said this week.

The program consists of both alcohol out-reach groups which sponsor question and answer sessions at campus dorms and fraternities, and a network of students trained as peer counselors, who give support and respond to concerns about alcohol abuse.

The peer counselors and outreach groups were instigated in 1978 when Norman Carpenter, a Dartmouth alumnus, wrote to the school saying that his drinking problems stemmed from habits he learned as an undergraduate.

In response, school officials set up the Alcohol Concerns Committee to coordinate the counseling programs and to devise an alcohol policy. It requires all groups to provide non-alcoholic beverages at parties and publicizes the penalties of violating the law in New Hampshire, where the drinking age is 20, said John J. Donovan, head of the peer counseling program.

To help the peer counselors "get in touch with their feelings" about alcohol, they take part in a six-session minicourse, said Stephen J. Nelson, chairman of the committee. The course includes a week-long period of abstinence.


Despite their training, the counselors do not profess that they are professionals, and Ellen L. Shapiro, a peer counselor, emphasized her volunteer position. "I'm not an expert, I'm just a little less confused and more informed than most people," she said.

Coca-Cola and Blue Ribbon

"The counselors are helping," Donovan added, saying, "It's becoming acceptable not to drink," and noting that 19 fraternities have now installed Coca-Cola taps next to those for beer.

Dartmouth students interviewed said they believed the programs, especially the peer counselors, were addressing the drinking dilemma. "We're such an enclosed community that there is very little to do except drink," said Sean M. Borgeson, president of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity. "It can get out of hand."