Harvard grants encourage safe parties

by Beacon Staff • March 28, 2007

Harvard is now offering students money to throw parties that have other alternatives to the keg stand.

The Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisor (DAPA) program involves a training course for students, which require them to go to twelve mandatory sessions in the spring semester on various topics from the symbiosis of alcohol with drug use to crisis management.

After the courses are completed the students are instructed to take what they learned and apply it in their houses, sport teams and so on.

The grants that go along with the DAPA program offer financial support

in the hope that students will not drink on an empty stomach and stay hydrated if money is provided for food and water. The program is not abstinence based but encourages

healthy and low-risk decisions.

The $40,000 dollar grant from the Massachusetts Governor's Highway Safety Office and the Justice Department, which is sponsoring grants similar to the DAPA grants throughout the country, was given in November of last year and is split between Harvard, MIT and the Cambridge License Commission according to Rebecca Donatelli, Program Coordinator for the Massachusetts

Governor's Highway Safety Bureau in an interview with MIT's newspaper Tech Talk.

Ryan Travia, Harvard's Director of Alcohol Other Drug Services, is in charge of doling out the DAPA grants, which are usually for about $100 each, but can be for as much as $500.

According to Travia, this year is the first of a five-year program in which the grants can be given to both students and organizations.

"We are looking at different way to reduce high-risk drinking at Harvard,"

said Travia.

The DAPA grants are pre-approved through a budget proposal that the student submits and retroactively paid, reimbursing the students after they provide an itemized

receipt that proves they did not buy alcohol with the grant money.

However, in contrast with the DAPA grants, Harvard's Undergraduate

Council (UC) provides funding without restrictions, which are unrelated to the DAPA grants or the Office of Alcohol and other Drug Services. According to the Harvard Grant Evaluation Guidelines, all of the funding for the UC grants comes from students' contributions through specific UC tuition fees.

Emerson's Director of the Office of Housing and Residence Life David Haden said he is aware of the DAPA program and its success in other colleges.

"While we do not have any specific

grants that are available to students,

we do have funds available to support programming efforts," said Haden in an e-mail to The Beacon "Students are able to request funding for programs that meet student needs and provide fun, healthy alternatives to drinking."

The funds available at Emerson are given by Residence Assistants, the Hall Council or the Residence Hall Association. In addition, there are also alcohol-free programs sponsored by the Center for Health and Wellness.

"We want to help students navigate

the decisions they are faced with regarding alcohol, since they will still be faced with decisions about when, if and how to use alcohol safely even after they have graduated and left the College," said Coordinator of Wellness Education,

Laura Collins.

Emerson has it's own alternative

to DAPA in Healthy Options Peer Education (HOPE), a group that coordinates dry events for the college such as Holiday Pajamboree,

Hot Wings and Trivia and Spa Night.

The Center for Health and Wellness

also sponsors the yearly "Free For A Weekend," which hosts four days of drug- and booze-free events.

But Collins thinks that more can still be done. "I think there is always room for more alcohol-awareness programs or more alcohol-free alternative events," she said

Adam Santiago, a freshman film major and self-described avid non-drinker, said that there is little the college can do to get kids to stop drinking or drink healthier, even if funding is provided and the straight-edge parties, which entail no drinking,

no drugs and no promiscuous sex, would be better.

"Even if money was thrown at them," he said, "they're not going to say let's not go get drunk."