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Penn State Updates Course on Drinking And Sexual Violence, Aiming To Keep Students 'Safe & Aware'

Two college students deciding what to drink at a party

The scene is familiar to many college students — a party with music, alcohol and drinking games. Before long, one female student seems like she's had too much to drink. 

What would you do in that situation? Incoming Penn State students have to answer questions like that as part of the revamped online course the university rolled out for this semester. The goal was making the course — which covers drinking and sexual violence — more engaging.

Linda LaSalle, director of health promotion and wellness at Penn State
Credit Anne Danahy / WPSU
Linda LaSalle, director of health promotion and wellness at Penn State, shows one part of "Safe & Aware" the online class for incoming freshmen.

“We really wanted to create a scenario that represented typical student situation related to being in a party context where there’s alcohol and also a context where someone might use alcohol to facilitate sexual assault,” said Linda LaSalle is Penn State’s director of health promotion and wellness.

To complete part of the online course, Penn State Safe & Aware, students watch an animated scenario, answering questions about what they would do as the possibility of a sexual assault unfolds. 

LaSalle said the aim is to help students make better decisions about drinking, learn about risk factors and know about resources for alcohol and sexual violence.

“The idea is to help students identify some of the risk factors that lead up to that situation, with the hope that if they’re aware of those risk factors, they can take action in a different way,” she said.

LaSalle said another message for students is that if they choose not to drink, there are other students like them and that's a viable option.

Incoming Penn State freshmen at all campuses have to take the class. New students started taking the revamped course for this semester, incoming students will take it for the summer and 13,000 to 14,000 will take it before they arrive in the fall. 

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.
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