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Lip Balm, Post-It Notes To Spread Alcohol Stats

By Matthew S. Lebowitz, Crimson Staff Writer

Students will soon begin receiving personalized birthday cards—complete with statistics about alcohol-related social norms at Harvard—from the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services just before their 21st birthdays, in one of several new initiatives planned for the coming semester by Director of Alcohol and Other Drug Services Ryan M. Travia.

According to Travia, the cards will inform students that 69 percent of students at the college eat before and/or during drinking according to undergraduates’ responses to the National College Health Assessment (NCHA)—a survey administered to students each spring.

Travia said the cards will serve the purpose of “wishing [the students] a happy birthday from my office and telling them that if they choose to go out and celebrate, I want them to be safe.”

Enclosed with the birthday greetings will be a coupon entitling the recipient to a free appetizer at Daedalus—intended to discourage drinking on an empty stomach—as well as a wallet-sized “resource card” listing phone numbers of local taxi companies and emergency contacts at Harvard.

In addition to the birthday cards, statistics from Harvard’s NCHA results will also be printed on several products intended for distribution to campus groups.

These include lip balms, which Travia’s office will give to students and to athletic coaches, who will be encouraged to provide them to athletes. Other such products include Nalgene water bottles, post-it notes, and tray liners to be used in Annenberg Hall.

Travia said the statistics printed on these items “are not messages that preach abstinence” from alcohol consumption, but rather “messages of low-risk, normative, protective behavior.”

His office also plans to begin training students for a new Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisor (DAPA) program in February.

He described the DAPA program as distinct from other peer counseling groups on campus.

At least initially, the DAPAs will not have their own space with drop-in hours or a phone line for strangers to seek counseling. Rather, the program will be geared toward empowering students to assist their friends with alcohol and drug-related concerns.

“My sense is that sometimes students might feel more comfortable going to a knowledgeable friend for advice...rather than an administrator or even another student they don’t know,” Travia said.

After completing the training, students will be certified as DAPAs and will have the opportunity to decide how involved they wish to be in the program. Travia said he hopes some students will remain involved with his office, helping with the development and execution of new programs, while others will take on different roles.

For example, “they can serve as an adviser or confidante for their own social group,” Travia said. “I’d also like to have at least one participant from each house...so each house will have an expert.”

Assistant Dean of the College Paul J. McLoughlin wrote in an e-mail that he expects the DAPA program to succeed.

“Ryan’s plans to include alcohol and drug peer counselors as a part of his effort to educate students will prove effective in the year ahead,” he wrote. “I am eager to see how [Travia’s] new programs will continue to inform students on the safe use of alcohol.”

—Staff writer Ying Wang contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Matthew S. Lebowitz can be reached at mslebow@fas.harvard.edu.

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