University of Southern California

USC Student Affairs and Campus Life

Student Affairs Wishes Students a Safe 21st Birthday

By Lillian Insalata Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cupcake_Vertical1_webPhoto by Lillian Insalata

To remind students to celebrate responsibly, Student Affairs is now sending students electronic 21st birthday cards, a strategy employed by other Pac 12 universities. Supported by Recreational Sports, the Office for Wellness and Health Promotion, USC Hospitality and Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards, the card welcomes students to “Club 21” and is signed by Vice President for Student Affairs Michael L. Jackson.

As a birthday present, the card includes a printable coupon for a free appetizer at Traditions Bar & Grill. The hope is that the coupon will entice students to eat food while imbibing, resulting in lower Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels and safer consumption of alcohol. The card also has a link to the Recreational Sports Website, which suggests risk reduction strategies, BAC data and information about alcohol poisoning.

“It’s about making healthy choices,” said Jennifer Siu, associate director of Recreational Sports. “It’s not fair to tell people what to do, but you want them to have choices so that they can be safe.”

The birthday cards reinforce a message of responsibility and safety put forth by Student Affairs’ many campus-wide efforts to reduce alcohol abuse and promote universal prevention and wellness. Since 2003, all incoming freshmen have had to complete AlcoholEdu, an online course detailing the risks and potential consequences of drinking. In addition, USC joined the Alcohol Prevention Coalition in 2010 to take a more institutionalized approach to combating alcohol abuse and  augment the effectiveness of AlcoholEdu.

Katherine Verrochi, a health promotion specialist in the Office for Wellness and Health Promotion, says that turning 21 may cause upperclassmen to forget or ignore what they learned from AlcoholEdu as freshmen.

“The students feel a little pressured to go big,” she said, adding that “for those students who have not drunk in the past, they don’t really know where their limits are. Incoming undergrads are 18 years old, so to an extent, all the rules change when they’re 21.”

Even the small reminder offered by the Student Affairs birthday card may cause students to reexamine their drinking behaviors and begin practicing healthier habits. However, administrators are not trying to put a damper on students’ celebrations.

“We encourage them to celebrate,” said Verrochi. “We just want them to celebrate in a manner that’s safe for them and the people around them.”

After all, safe birthdays are the best kind of birthdays.

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