Students encouraged to ‘Be Smart’
“The most influential reason why new students drink is because of social reasons,” reports Rob Turrisi, Ph.D. in “The Handbook for Talking with College Students about Alcohol” sent to all first-year students prior to their arrival on campus. He explains, “There is active social influence, which occurs when a friend explicitly suggests they engage in some behavior (e.g., “Let's go get drunk”). And there are passive influences such as when they think everyone is doing it and that it is an acceptable thing to do.”
Students thinking “everyone’s doing it” is at the crux of a new ‘social norming’ campaign initiated by the Office of the Dean of Students called Be Smart. Social norming is the term used to describe a communications program geared to help correct misperceptions of campus drinking norms in the hope of affecting student knowledge, attitudes, and behavior.
Karen Donoghue, Dean of Students, explains, “Students figure they have to drink if they want to fit in, even though the legal drinking age is 21. But in reality, according to Fairfield University’s latest Alcohol.edu data, a survey of first-year students, 50% of the new students come to college not drinking.”
The Be Smart campaign was created to spread this “you don’t have to drink to have a good time” message to students early on in the semester using a combination of printed materials, student leaders, and a roaming food tent:
- A series of Be Smart materials, including posters, oversized decals, stickers, and table-top banners were created and are on display around campus. The messages are simple and concise, offering important tips to party smart, help others who have overindulged, and provide statistics about the true extent of drinking among peers.
- Student Leaders have been engaged as Peers Influencers. The Dean of Students office tends to meet with students “after” they have been in violation of a policy. The Be Smart program has peer leaders talking to students about healthy decision making before they make the decision to drink
- Be Smart Tent: A highly visible, Stag-red tent was produced and is being set up in key locations during the late-night weekend hours. In addition to providing information, student leaders, Residence Life staff and Public Safety officers offer students the opportunity to hydrate (water) and eat (pizza and snacks), helping to slow down the rate alcohol absorption into the blood stream.
The tent has been utilized since the first weekend and will be at upcoming large-scale events such as the Presidential Ball and Fall Concert.
While it is still early in the semester, Dean Donoghue is pleased with the reception the program has received thus far. “We have been able to create awareness about a critical issue on our campus in an engaging, effective way.”