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November 22, 2012

Frostburg boosts Friday classes to curb drinking

WASHINGTON — The Frostburg State University College of Business is joining a national effort to decrease student binge drinking on Thursday nights by increasing the number of classes held on Fridays.

Ahmad Tootoonchi, professor and dean at the Frostburg College of Business, has been working to increase the number of Friday classes within the College of Business since he learned they were helpful to preventing binge drinking on Thursdays, he said.

Tootoonchi developed the idea after Brandon Busteed, founder and president of Outside the Classroom — now EverFi — gave a presentation at Frostburg on student drinking habits about two years ago, he said.

“It was from his presentation that I learned the benefit of Friday classes,” Tootoonchi said.

The presentation was a part of EverFi’s alcohol prevention coalition, where representatives speak to college campuses and provide them with information on how to decrease student drinking, said Helen Stubbs, EverFi’s vice president of higher education. The company also has a course, AlcoholEdu, to teach students how to drink responsibly and make them “aware of dangers beforehand,” she said.

The presentation explained the risks involved with drinking on college campuses, and argued that students with no Friday classes drank twice as much on Thursday nights than students who were enrolled in early Friday classes.

“Essentially, it gives students the chance to extend their weekend — extend their high risk behavior — another day,” Stubbs said.

Alcohol and binge drinking is prevalent on college campuses — 81 percent of college students report they have tried alcohol, 68 percent say they have been drunk and 36 percent reveal they have binged on alcohol, according to a 2011 Monitoring the Future study.

Binge drinking is when a person drinks enough within two hours to raise their blood alcohol concentration to .08, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which is after about four drinks for women and five drinks for men.

Busteed’s visit to Frostburg inspired Tootoonchi to change the college’s course schedule.

“I made that my goal to work with department chairs and faculty members in the school of business to create more Friday classes,” he said. “As soon as they found out that, yes, Friday classes matter in terms of helping student drinking problems, they all agreed to do so.”

The number of Friday classes at Frostburg’s College of Business has increased from 12 in 2009 to 47 in 2012.

Other universities including Syracuse University, Duke University and Clark University in Worcester, Mass., have also increased Friday morning classes to curb binge drinking on Thursday nights, the New York Times reported.

Tootoonchi conducted an independent survey of Frostburg business students and found that there is some correlation between Friday morning classes and alcohol consumption on Thursday nights.

However, business students Annie Warnick and Cody Morton both typically have calm Thursday nights.

Warnick is now working toward her master’s but had two or three classes on Fridays while earning her bachelor’s at Frostburg and “didn’t do anything crazy,” she said.

Morton, a senior business major with three classes on Friday, does not go out much on Thursday nights, but his 10 a.m. Friday class is not the sole motivator, he said, because he would probably “be inside anyway.”

The business students’ Friday morning classes are a blueprint for the rest of the university to follow, according to the school’s President Jonathan Gibralter.

“Something as specific as increasing the number of Friday classes can have a major impact on our ability to retain students who may leave Frostburg due to poor grades or other issues that are related to excessive alcohol consumption,” Gibralter said during fall convocation. “In short, if more faculty would consider taking action on this, it could prove to be a powerful retention strategy for FSU, and enhance our overall educational experience.”

The university now is considering expanding the experience by increasing Friday morning classes across the campus.

“What we’re really targeting now is fall 2013,” Associate Dean of Students Jeff Graham said. “We’d like to see a 10 percent increase in the number of Friday classes being offered.”

The College of Business has blazed a trail for the rest of the university to follow.

“All of our colleges are looking at ways to schedule more Friday classes,” Frostburg spokeswoman Becca Ram-spott said. “The College of Business has been the first to step up and do that in a response to high risk drinking.”

The opposing idea of campuses eliminating Friday classes was briefly mentioned at a Board of Regents meeting for the University System of Maryland, but that idea is not on the radar of Frostburg faculty.

Faculty members favor increasing Friday morning classes, but Tootoonchi doesn’t expect students to feel the same way.

“Naturally, we are assuming they would not like to have Friday classes, especially Friday classes with instructors who schedule meaningful activities such as exams, quizzes (and) group discussion with points,” he said. But the main goal is “to reduce the alcohol abused as much as we could possibly do, and by doing this our ultimate goal was to improve their overall well-being and their academic performance.”

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