University of Wisconsin-Stout

Nov. 1, 2011

Freshmen have been given a pretty easy assignment this fall at University of Wisconsin-Stout. It takes only 10 to 20 minutes, they won’t be graded — although there will be plenty of feedback — and they have the entire semester to finish the task.

If they don’t do it, however, an incomplete will mean they can’t register for classes next semester. Registration for those classes is under way.

For the first time, UW-Stout is requiring all new freshmen to answer questions about alcohol use.

They will do so via e-Chug, a confidential, online assessment program aimed at college students.

“It’s an educational assessment, a snapshot into where their drinking falls compared to other Stout students,” said Jake Bloom, UW-Stout Alcohol and Other Drug Program coordinator.

E-Chug doesn’t just target students who drink. It also does a good job of informing nondrinkers to help them with peer pressure while living away from home for the first time, Bloom said. “It really provides a lot of education when you take it.”

E-Chug has been used at UW-Stout for more than five years but has become mandatory as a result of stepped-up efforts across the university to reduce high-risk alcohol use.

Although traditional freshmen are not old enough to legally drink alcohol, many already drink, Bloom said. “We know that many high school seniors drink and come in with drinking patterns not too far off from college students. The age of the first drink is getting lower and lower in our country.”

E-Chug asks students various questions about their alcohol use or nonuse and then provides individualized feedback. Students’ tendencies are compared to social norms. Subject areas include risk patterns, level of alcohol tolerance, family risk factors, harm reduction strategies and resources.

“It really helps debunk the myths. Research has shown that e-Chug really reduces dangerous, hazardous behaviors,” Bloom said.

The program was founded by counselors and psychologists at San Diego State University. More than 550 universities in 49 states and three foreign countries use e-Chug. It has been modified to fit UW-Stout’s needs.

Another new program this fall is 21+, an informational marketing effort targeting students who are of legal drinking age. The goal is to reduce risk through information about making smart choices. It addresses issues like living off campus, hosting a party and socializing.

“E-Chug and the 21+ initiatives are education and prevention components of the overall Alcohol Education and Enforcement plan. The initiatives are supported by evidence-based research and national best practice models,” said Dean of Students Joan Thomas. “The main focus of the plan is to make sure alcohol doesn’t get in the way of students achieving their academic, career or personal goals.”

The most serious outcomes of high-risk drinking happen among students 21 or older and among those who have moved off campus, Thomas and Bloom said. “A lot of education and prevention is geared at the under-21 population. We want to reach them when they turn of age and move off campus,” Bloom said.

The 21+ campaign includes various materials with messages such as “You Know Your Limits,” “Stay in Control,” and “Birthday Shots: They Add Up Quickly.”

The materials have been displayed at various campus events and will be on coasters at some city taverns. Also, stickers with the messages will be put on takeout food and beverage items by University Dining Services.

The 21+ campaign logo was created by Christine Pogatchnik, from Big Lake, Minn., an art major with a graphic design concentration.

E-Chug and 21+ are part of the Smart+Healthy campaign and the UW-Stout Campus Alcohol Education and Enforcement Plan 2011-12. To learn more, go to