Last week, the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services announced that their annual National Alcohol Screen Day event, at which students evaluated their drinking habits with a health professional and received a free Camelbak water bottle, will no longer take place. Citing the event's expense and its failure to reach high-risk individuals, the office has decided to discontinue this annual tradition.
Notwithstanding the pressures that have resulted in its cancellation, the NASD event had widely beneficial effects on the student body. It helped ensure that students feel comfortable disclosing their drinking behaviors to individuals who can provide help. Furthermore, by virtue of its broad popularity and status as a tradition of sorts, incoming students felt comfortable speaking candidly about their drinking habits, which is critical for the creation of a responsible drinking culture on campus.
The event also helped to acquaint students with the confidential services available at Harvard. While the university offers a multitude of health-related services, many students either do not know they exist or feel that the resources may be inaccessible. National Alcohol Screening Day not only gave both the AODS and the Drugs and Alcohol Peer Advisors visibility, but also reassured participants that these services were trustworthy as confidential resources for them to contact in other situations as well.
Without the sort of visibility that the event and water bottles marked with the DAPA logo provided, there are few other ways of ensuring that freshmen are aware that DAPA can provide them with help. Given the high number of instances of binge-drinking that occur in the Yard, it is incredibly important that DAPA and AODS be seen as reliable resources, so that underclassmen can receive appropriate preventive education before they have a dangerous encounter with alcohol.
To this end, we hope that the AODS will invest in a replacement event in the upcoming years. Whether it involves a Camelbak, some other brand of water bottle, or some other incentive, it is important that the success of this event be replicated. Equipping students with the physical resources to practice safe-drinking is an endeavor that cannot be abandoned with the cancellation of this event.The yearly NASD event had ultimately become a custom that will prove hard to replace. It allowed students to think about their drinking habits honestly, and was exceptionally beneficial for freshmen who viewed upperclassmen participation in the screening as an indicator of the reliability of the resources that Harvard offers. Even with the hope for future events that achieve similar goals, the free water bottles and National Alcohol Screening Day event will be missed as a cultural tradition among the undergraduate student body.
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