logo in blue that spells out the word basics

What is BASICS?

The BASICS program is designed to help students explore their alcohol and drug use in a supportive and non-shaming environment.  Students first take an online survey and then sign up for a 60 minute session with a BASICS provider to receive their personalized survey feedback. 


Some topics covered in BASICS sessions include:
• Personalized blood alcohol content (BAC) information
• Brain functioning
• Sleep
• Nutrition
• Social norms and patterns

Who goes to BASICS?

The BASICS program is appropriate for anyone who wants to have a conversation about their use or nonuse of substances. BASICS is not an abstinence only program; meaning, you will not automatically be told to stop using substances. You will be given information and invited into a discussion about what is right for you. You will then be supported to consider how to make changes or maintain what is working.

Any UVM student is welcome to participate in BASICS at no cost. Some students are required to attend as part of an athletic team or fraternity and sorority life chapter. Other students attend as a result of a conduct violation.

If you would like to participate in the BASICS program, or if you have any questions, contact:
Tom Fontana at tom.fontana@uvm.edu

BAC Info – quick, customized, anonymous
Many people do not know their specific information about how fast they get drunk or at what rate they get sober.  But if you drink, you can’t correctly pace yourself without it.  Click above to get your info.

BASICS History

The University of Vermont’s version of BASICS is based on research conducted at the University of Washington and Western Washington University.  Its aim is to reduce high-risk use of alcohol and other drugs as well as the harmful problems associated with misuse. In the words of the authors who conceptualized BASICS, “it is nonconfrontational, nonjudgmental, nonauthoritarian, and nonlabeling."  BASICS was started in 1992 and has been implemented at close to a thousand college campuses across the U.S.
Dimeff, L., Baer, J., Kivlahan, D., & Marlatt, G. (1999). Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students. The Guilford Press.


Every varsity athletics team at The University of Vermont is required to participate in the BASICS program.  Team BASICS discusses alcohol and substance use with an intentional focus on team dynamics and norms.  Similar to individual BASICS, each team member will take a survey.  What’s different is that the BASICS Coordinator meets with the entire team and the group participates in 90 min program together.

Here’s what one varsity athlete had to say after the BASICS session:

“I think the program is really well conducted.”

“The change I made was making better decisions and being more responsible while drinking.”

BASICS for Fraternity & Sorority Life

All new members joining a sorority or fraternity at The University of Vermont are required to participate in the BASICS program.  FSL BASICS discusses alcohol and substance use with an intentional focus on chapter culture and norms.  Similar to individual BASICS, each new member will take a survey.  What’s different is that the BASICS Coordinators then meet with the all new members and the group participates in 90 min program together.

Here’s what one fraternity member had to say after the BASICS session:

“I think the group session with my entire pledge class was amazing. When you join a fraternity you are bombarded with talks, meetings and seminars about hazing, sexual assault, drinking/drugs, etc. Rarely are we treated with as much respect as in this BASICS program. I was thoroughly impressed with both the man and woman who ran the show. They understood that a talk on drugs and alcohol was not our first choice for an evening activity but they engaged us in a respectful, considerate and helpful discussion about our drug and alcohol use. Me and all my brothers went in there expecting to be scolded for drinking and smoking but left with a great deal of respect for [the BASICS facilitators]”


It is essential that students know the survey information and conversation is confidential.  Furthermore, information about specific groups (chapters or teams) is also confidential.  Data may be used anonymously to track change or understand patterns.  But no personally identifiable- or team/chapter identifiable- information will ever be shared.

BASICS follows the confidentiality standards of UVM’s Center for Health & Wellbeing (CHWB).  As with all professionals, BASICS Coordinators are legally required to disclose information if a student/client poses a physical threat to oneself or another person, if there is possible abuse or neglect of a child or vulnerable adult, or in certain legal situations where we are ordered to disclose information by a court or judge under appropriate state & federal laws. 

If you have questions please contact Tom Fontana at tom.fontana@uvm.edu.

Does BASICS work?

Yes.  Subjectively and objectively, we have strong data specific to our program at UVM that BASICS works. Subjectively, a vast majority of students report having a positive experience with BASICS.  (See some of the quotes under ‘student testimonials’ below.)  Objectively, through the use of a 3 and 12 month follow up survey, we can begin to quantify the experience and behavior change.

Although most students are not looking to make a dramatic change in their use, many students are looking to tweak a few things.  We see that at 3 months out, students have reduced their use; and at 12 months out, those reductions remain.

It would be impossible to discuss meaningful change without beginning to understand the individual and their story.  A person is not likely to risk sharing their story unless they felt understood and respected.  Importantly, students say that they feel respected in BASICS. 

When asked, “Did you feel respected?” on a scale of 0 to 10, the average score is 9.2.  That is a tremendous credit to the risk students take coming to BASICS (whether mandated or on their own) and the environment we create together.

Students Testimonials About BASICS

[BASICS] “was helpful and had some cool information. Nothing to be scared about. Completely cool procedure and helpful for learning techniques and making smarter decisions.”

“I cut down both my alcohol and marijuana consumption. I also stopped smoking before going to bed.”

“I regiment my use more and am more aware of how often and how much I am using.”

“I was in my first-semester of my freshman year and I made one very bad mistake due to drinking, and she [BASICS provider] recognized that as one mistake, and believed me when I told her that I would never make that mistake again. And lastly, I can proudly say that after this session, I changed my drinking for the better. I'm safe, in control, and happy with my actions. Thank you so much for everything, I appreciated it greatly!"