Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 02:10
Samantha Wyckoff | The Mirror
The Center for Peer Education regularly posts information to help educate the students on the effects of alcohol.
When one thinks about college campuses with the most alcohol-related issues, UNC likely doesn’t come to mind — even if thinking strictly about schools in Colorado.
While any university has its share of parties on any given weekend, UNC isn’t notorious for its debauchery.
“We’re below the national average for irresponsible alcohol use,” said Emily Hedstrom-Lieser, the assistant director at the University of Northern Colorado’s Office of Prevention. “Ninety percent of our students report using a designated driver. The overwhelming majority of our students are using alcohol responsibly.”
This is in part because UNC has a history with responsibility campaigns in the past. Perhaps more so than other college campuses, UNC has tried to make sure its students know the risks of excessive alcohol use and what they can do to lessen those risks.
The school’s history with responsibility campaigns made it an attractive candidate for a statewide initiative to promote responsible drinking, led by the Persistent Drunk Driving Committee. The committee is a state
organization, created in 1998 with the Persistent Drunk Driving Act. One of the committee’s focus groups is college students and college campuses, which it is targeting through its Social Norms Campaign.
“We were a model campus for responsibility work,” Hedstrom-Lieser said of the committee’s decision to work with UNC. “We had already laid the foundation for prevention.”
UNC was the third college campus chosen to launch the Social Norms Campaign, after Western State College in Gunnison and Colorado State University at Pueblo.
The campaign specifically addresses how students view alcohol use. There’s no doubt the hard-drinking college student is a persistent stereotype. In some cases, there is a stigma attached when refusing to drink alcohol in college life.
The Social Norms Campaign, however, makes the argument that this is more of a perceived notion than an actual one. Not every college student is a frequent heavy drinker.
“We’re starting with a three-year campaign to collect data,” said Brittany Bohl, a prevention counselor at UNC.
Data collection consists of surveys given to UNC students, asking about their alcohol use.
“We surveyed 400 students in randomly-chosen classrooms,” Bohl said.
The survey seeks to cut to the heart of students’ perceptions about alcohol use, with questions such as “On average, how many drinks do you think the average student at UNC consumes per week?” and “Do you believe that alcohol makes [you] more attractive?”
The positive result of the survey was that while over half of UNC students report using alcohol, the majority wasn’t consuming it in an overwhelming fashion. The stereotype of constantly drunk university students doesn’t fit UNC, at least.
Maybe the most important aspect of the Social Norms Campaign is that it is specially tailored to students. While the Persistent Drunk Driving Committee is orchestrating the initiative, each college campus has its say in what its campaign looks like, complete with specific themes and advertising.
Western State, for example, chose the Truth Fairy as its campaign’s mascot — a male student in a tutu, complete with a wand dedicated to telling the truth about alcohol and social norms. CSU Pueblo opted for the slightly more macabre zombie-themed campaign.
Because this is the first year of the campaign for UNC, the program has yet to be completely fleshed out, and students will have a large amount of say in what their Social Norms Campaign looks like on campus. Many of those decisions will be made in the spring semester.
All stereotypes aside, UNC really doesn’t have many of the problems that other universities have with alcohol abuse. While school-sponsored programs are important, the Social Norms Campaign is looking to ensure that UNC stays that way.