Alcohol and Other Drug Program Coordinator Sarah Covell was instrumental in bringing Training on Greeks and Alcohol, or TOGA, to Geneseo. She says the program works with Greek leaders rather than to preserve “the ill-conceived ‘just say no’ campaigns of the past.”
“The fact is that it is a collaborative effort between my office and the Office of Greek Life,” said Covell. “Nobody wants a party guest or friend to get sick or die from alcohol overdose. TOGA is not a top-down program to be forced upon Greek organizations, but rather a collaborative effort to help Greek organizations develop a program that meets their needs.”
Dr. Toben Nelson, UMinn project leader and one of many harbingers of TOGA at Geneseo, was looking for partners when he got in touch with Covell about bringing the program to Geneseo.
“Toben is a big name in the field of public health and prevention,” says Covell. “The guy’s a rock star in my world, so I figured if he got the funding, my little old alma mater, Geneseo, could be a part of a pilot that could benefit Greek students across the country […] I thought we’d be one of multiple schools in a consortium, I never dreamed we’d be one of only four to help fine-tune and pilot the program.”
Dr. Nelson also sought partners to receive funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and local links were eager to help his project achieve that funding.
TOGA’s basis in Dr. Nelson’s design sets the tone for its establishment on the Geneseo campus. Dr. Nelson terms his ideas an “Alcohol Epidemiology Program,” conveying an effort to investigate links in alcohol abuse across the nation’s schools that offer Greek life.
TOGA will make its first showing on campus in November, after Covell and her colleagues, including Wendi Kinney, Assistant Dean of Students for Fraternal Life and Off-Campus Services, gather feedback from both Greek and non-Greek students about the program.
Kinney was a critical partner in bringing TOGA to campus. Covell says that Kinney continues to be one of the most involved members of SUNY Geneseo in the program.
In the Spring semester, the UMinn team will visit and help selected Greek organizations pilot the program.
“We recognize that people are going to make their own decisions,” said Covell. “We want them to be as well-informed as possible and have tools to protect themselves, as well as any bystanders, from the harmful effects of any behaviors they choose to participate in.”