Originally published August 17, 2009 at 9:22 a.m., updated August 17, 2009 at 4:19 p.m.
New Kansas University students will need to pass one extra course this semester on top of their regular load of classes.
KU announced Monday that freshman and transfer students younger than 22 must take an online course about the effects of alcohol.
“It’s really about education, and it helps students learn about the impact of alcohol on their bodies and helps them understand how to make good decisions regarding alcohol,” said Marlesa Roney, KU’s vice provost for student success.
The new mandatory course is the latest piece of KU’s initiative to roll out changes to its alcohol policy in the last few months. Two alcohol-related deaths last semester helped expedite the changes.
The two-hour course will provide information about alcohol and its impact on the body and behavior. New students would have to complete the first part of the course between Aug. 31 and Sept. 24. The second part would have to be completed 30 days after the first part, but no later than Nov. 2.
Students who do not complete the course would not be eligible to enroll for the spring semester, but Roney said all students would pass the course because the computer program allows for students to retake parts of the course they failed.
Freshman Natasha Kothari, a recent Blue Valley Northwest High School graduate, said she doesn’t drink alcohol but the course might benefit other students who do.
“I’m hoping, maybe for some people who would drink, maybe it will be a wake-up call,” she said. “Then maybe the campus and the school will meet their objectives, but I don’t really know if it will be that informative.”
Other students said the educational initiative would warn about the dangers of alcohol.
“It’s definitely a big problem, and I think this class might help, actually,” said Sareen Patel, a Shawnee freshman.
KU is underwriting the cost of the course. The information provided by students in the interactive program would be treated as confidential. While KU would receive summary information, the university would never see individual students’ answers.
Dalton Hawkins, 18, of Shawnee, died April 24 from injuries to his head and chest after falling from the roof of the three-story Watkins Scholarship Hall after drinking alcohol. Jason Wren, 19, of Littleton, Colo., was found dead inside Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity after a night of heavy drinking.
After those deaths, KU has made other changes to its alcohol policies, including notifying parents regarding alcohol violations in student housing, and granting amnesty for those who seek medical help when a friend is having an alcohol-related emergency. KU says many students don’t seek help because they’re afraid of the punishments they could receive.
“What it is really is that opportunity to learn more about the impact of alcohol, to make better decisions and make very wise decisions,” Roney said.