In an effort to gain insight into undergraduate alcohol consumption patterns. University Health Services (UHS) is polling 500 randomly selected members of the senior and freshman classes about their drinking attitudes and habits.
The three-page survey, mailed out earlier this week, asks students to comment on their views, knowledge, and use of alcohol, while keeping their identities secret Officials said that the poll was not distributed in response to any recent problems relating to alcohol at Harvard.
Dr. Sholem Postel, deputy director of UHS, said he was not aware of any special reason why the test is being administered. "We at UHS haven't experienced any higher incidence of alcohol abuse, at least not to my knowledge."
"It can't be in response to any specific problems," said Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III, who said he was unaware that such a survey was taking place.
Kathleen M. Kniepmann, health educator at UHS, said the questionnaire is for informational purposes only.
"We just want to find out what correlation there is between knowledge, attitudes, and use," said Kniepmann, whose office is handling the survey.
In addition to asking participants how much and how often they drank alcohol in the past two months, the survey asks the respondents, among other questions, whether they have had a hangover in the past two months, if they believe teetotaler are anti-social, and whether they think coffee and cold showers are effective means of sobering up.
Kniepmann said that the results of the survey, which will be tabulated later this month will help UHS officials determine what programs are necessary for educating the Harvard community about alcohol use and knowledge.
She added that UHS will attempt to survey the current freshman respondents again when they are seniors "to see whether talks and literature between now and then have helped."
Kniepmann reported that 140 of the 500 surveys have been filled out and returned to UHS so far. She added that while she is hoping for a 75-80 percent response rate, she said she found the current level of response "very encouraging."
Although individual responses will be kept confidential, some students who received the poll did agree to talk about the survey in general.
"I didn't mind doing it," said Roberta L. Starr '88. But, she added, the questions seemed to be worded for "people who already had drinking problems."
But Staff, who already filled out and returned her questionnaire to UHS, said she doubted whether the survey would be of much benefit. "If someone has a drinking problem statistics aren't going to matter much to them," she said.
Stephen C. King '88 said he felt drinking was not a big problem at Harvard. "It's no more of a problem here than anywhere else." He added that although he has not yet looked at the survey, he plans to fill submit it soon.
Epps said that the UHS survey marks the first time a study of alcohol patterns of Harvard students has been done since 1981, when a Boston-based health-research firm surveyed student on 16 New England campuses, including Harvard.
That survey showed, among many finding, that about 6 percent of male undergraduates and 3 percent of female students described themselves as "heavy drinkers," while some 7 percent of males and 11 percent of females said they regularly abstained from drinking beer, wine, and hard alcohol
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