Students in violation of Residence Hall Association drug and alcohol policies are now required to attend counseling sessions — even as first-time offenders — as part of the recently implemented College Alcohol Skills Education (CASE) program.

Previously, resident directors dealt with alcohol violations on an individual basis with consequences such as warnings, counseling or community service. Although each case is still reviewed individually, students are now required to attend an eight-course educational program divided into six group classes and two counseling sessions, said Joyce Ester, Office of Residential Life Judicial Affairs coordinator.

Alcohol and Other Drug Program Director and UCSB alumni Ian Kaminsky said the goal of CASE is to identify and prevent major drug and alcohol abuse problems. The program’s approach, however, recognizes that not all students in violation of drug and alcohol policies have substance abuse problems. He said the program offers these students information to help them make informed decisions about drugs and alcohol, as well as how to excel socially and academically.

“It’s not about ‘don’t drink,'” Kaminsky said. “If people choose to drink, we want them to be safe. … We want to help them succeed.”

Student Health, the Office of Student Life and the Office of Residential Life collaborated to create CASE, which mirrors a program that received positive results at the University of Washington, Kaminsky said. Santa Barbara is currently the only California university using the program, he said.

Staff, space and materials for the three-week-old program are funded through donations from the Division of Student Affairs, Kaminsky said. Participating students also contribute by paying a mandatory $50 fee.

Kaminsky said open discussions, movies and counseling sessions included in the program are used to inform students about how alcohol moves through the body, the interaction between food and alcohol, how to calculate blood alcohol concentration and how to avoid arrests and blackouts.

The classes also cover topics not directly related to drugs and alcohol, including strategies for managing stress, organizing schedules and avoiding peer pressure. Kaminsky said he has received positive feedback from students involved in the program.

“I never expected students to like it, but [some] tell me that they are relieved,” Kaminsky said. “They are treated with respect. … [The staff] does not think they are criminals just because they got caught drinking.”

However, Michael Tomilowitz, a first-year English and Law & Society major, said he sees no benefit to the program. Tomilowitz said he was referred to CASE after being written up for one drinking offense in the Residence Halls, something he feels is excessive.

“It’s not really going to change the way I drink,” Tomilowitz said. “I think it’s going overboard to get it on my first offense.”