Jun 142005
Authors: Brian Park

One way that Colorado State University is taking action on the recommendations made by the Alcohol Task Force is to implement a "social norms" campaign to educate students on the realities and severity of alcohol use and drunk driving.

The question of what are "social norms," is why about 50 people gathered in the Student Recreation Center Lounge at CSU on the morning of Thursday, June 9th.

One of the presenters was Scoot Crandall, Executive Director of TEAM Fort Collins, a community partnership that encourages people to live a healthy lifestyle without the illegal use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Crandall explained to the audience what the social norms theory is. Crandall stated a person's behavior is influenced by their incorrect perceptions of how other members of our social group think and act. Crandall went on to say the theory predicts that problem behavior increases and healthy behavior decreases because of a person's misperceptions.

The presentation included information on one social norming project that is currently underway at CSU. The '86 Yourself' campaign, launched during the winter of 2005, focuses on educating students on the importance of having a designated driver. The idea behind the social norming project is to make students realize that a high majority of their peers and members of their social groups do use a designated driver, so by making students aware of the positive behavior going on around them, they too will engage in it. Advancing and adding onto the '86 Yourself' campaign and implementing new comprehensive social norms campaigns in the future was also discussed at the presentation.

Speakers at the presentation noted that the '86 Yourself' campaign pointed out to students that a high majority of CSU students use a designated driver when they have been partying or drinking. A study last fall conducted by the National Collegiate Health Assessment found that 86 percent of CSU students do use designated drivers, 9 percent higher than the national average of 77 percent. Although statistics from the '86 Yourself' campaign have not been released yet, the speakers were confident that the program will prove to be effective.

"We have a lot of work to do, we probably helped out a drop in the bucket last year," said Pam McCracken, Director for the Center for Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention at the Hartshorn Health Center, near the end of the presentation. "But the potential is huge for us to make a difference."

"ASCSU really believes in the social norming campaign, we really want to make sure we are joining with the group and that the message gets out," said ASCSU President Courtney Healey afterwards. "We want to make sure we are highlighting those positive messages that are going on."

Healey went on to say that ASCSU will be involved in the process of future social norming campaigns and is extremely satisfied and supportive of the recommendations and actions CSU President Larry Penley has made to the university's alcohol policy.

"It will take a concentrated effort to get this up and running," McCracken said in a telephone interview a day later when discussing the future of social norms campaigns at CSU.

As of right now McCracken said she does not know what the specific message will be but it will address the entire student population and hopefully will achieve reducing alcohol consumption overall at the university.

Dr. Jen Cross, an Assistant Professor of Sociology, was a speaker at the presentation and is involved with the social norms campaigns at CSU as well.

"Now the next step is the development of the social norms committee, which will be composed of representatives from several different departments and units within the university," Cross said.

Currently a plan is being worked on for next school year, but for right now certain areas are being looked at as focus points for the upcoming fall campaign. The campaign will target behavior that will help reduce alcohol use, the harm associated with drinking alcohol, high-risk drinking, like binge-drinking and promoting safe practices in relation to alcohol use.

Safe practices include making sure a person is not drinking beyond their limit and what their body can take, Cross said. And also to make sure that a person's friends are all right and if problems do arise, being able to recognize them.

"I know this is a whole lot to do but it can happen," McCracken said. "The one thing that is really important to do is to get that group of people together to move forward."

Burns Marketing was behind the advertising and marketing of the '86' Yourself campaign. Ray Romero, an art director at the company, said as of today the company has not found out if it will be doing anything for CSU and its social norming campaign in the fall.

"We would love to build upon our success because our program is working," said Patrick Hunt, a copywriter at Burns Marketing. "We would like to freshen it up and keep it going."

The campaign for the fall is underway and McCracken would like to see it be ready by RAM Welcome. When the message and campaign is decided on it will be offered to students through t-shirts, stickers, marketing and promotional activities and through a media blitz in the Collegian, maybe even the Coloradoan as well.

"We're excited and feel really jazzed about promoting this with students," McCracken said. "We want to tell incoming students that safe behavior is what students are engaging in here at CSU."

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