College Crisis: I Survived BASICs

You’ve heard the rumors, but you never think it’ll happen to you — that is until one night when maybe things get out of hand or you just get unlucky, and you’re slapped with that dreaded referral. If you’re one of the 1,300 students who will complete BASICs this year, here’s what you’re in for.

BASICs is Penn State’s alcohol intervention program. You can refer yourself if you feel that your drinking is a problem. Self-referral accounts for less than 1% of the students in BASICs. The other 99% are mandated to go after a first-time alcohol violation.

Ame Golasewski, Assistant Director of Health Promotion and Wellness, says that BASICs is designed to “help students explore their alcohol use in a non-judgmental setting, reduce risky behavior … [and] provide important information and skills for risk reduction.” The program was started at Ohio State but has been adapted by many other schools because it has shown itself to be successful.

When you get referred, you’re instructed to make an appointment with Residence Life. When you go to the meeting that follows, you’ll be given a copy of the incident report and the chance to tell your side of the story. At the end of the meeting, you’ll most likely be told that you’ve been assigned to BASICs and your parents will be notified via letter. Definitely alert your parents before the letter arrives.

In my experience, Residence Life was nice and understanding. They have rules that they’re required to enforce and take seriously, but they didn’t try and make me feel guilty about being there. Even as they assigned me BASICs, they were making jokes and acting friendly.

You’ll schedule a one hour session of BASICs first. When you arrive at the IM Building, referred students are required to pay $250 via credit card or LionCash. Self-referred students may complete the program at no cost.

This cost has proven controversial for many students. An anonymous sophomore says, “I don’t know why it costs so much. The program only took me an hour total to complete. I don’t understand why I had to pay $250 to talk to someone for an hour.”

I was curious about the cost, too. Ame Golasewski says, “BASICs is a cost-recovery program … the fee pays for all aspects of the program including the staff who provide the services.”

Once your session begins, you’ll be one on one with a counselor. Mine was a PhD student here. She was friendly and nonjudgmental, which made the appointment painless. We talked about why I was enrolled and what my attitudes are about drinking in general. We also talked about my interests and involvement on campus. The appointment only lasted 26 minutes, though it technically was an hour long session.

At the end of this meeting, you’ll take two surveys. Your answers on these surveys will be discussed at your next session. If you appear to be high-risk, more sessions may be in order. These will be scheduled at no additional cost. My second session was exactly a week after my first.

The second meeting will be with the same counselor. This time, mine had a packet with information about my survey answers. She told me that I didn’t need to change my behavior. Then she gave me general information about BAC’s and drug use. This meeting took about 42 minutes — longer than the first session, but still shorter than the hour it was allotted for.

Overall, BASICs wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t too painful either. The high cost was frustratingly high, but at least the experience was quick, and all of the people involved were friendly.

There’s an easy way to avoid the whole process. Read Penn State’s alcohol policy and follow it. Be conscious of your own drinking habits and your friends’. If you feel that you need help, schedule a BASICs appointment online.


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