get the message on moderating alcohol use
Tuesday, April 06,
By Ken Thorbourne
Journal staff writer
Seen that couple
crashing the party on the Saint Peter's College campus, wearing purple
and red crowns and matching capes? That's Mr. and Miss Information.
Their goal, according
to Ronald Becker, director of the Jersey City college's Center for Personal
Development, is to give students the bare facts about alcohol consumption
Indeed, the most
surprising fact may be that most students aren't getting sloshed every
night - even if that's the impression movies and television shows give
about college life.
But at Saint Peter's, students
fit the national pattern of fairly moderate drinking behavior, according
to Becker. A recent survey of over 300 St. Peter's students found that
seven in 10 students go out drinking twice a month or less, and consume
four or less drinks when they do.
By making these facts known,
Becker said, students who are drinking more than this should cut back,
according to the "social norm" theory.
The theory, which states
that peer influence can play an important role in the lives of young
adults, also proposes that the behavior of college students can be greatly
influenced by perceptions of their peers' behavior.
That's where the caped and
crowned couples -six people in all - come in.
Since the beginning of the
school year, they've been showing up at the college's basketball games
and free movie nights, the Mardi Gras party and a host of other events,
speaking to students, circulating flyers, giving away freebies - all
aimed at communicating the social norm.
The program is underwritten
by $12,000 state grant, which is used to pay the anti-drinking ambassadors
about $7 an hour for their efforts.
And the Mr. and Miss Information
participants seem to be making headway - even if students don't always
believe the numbers.
"Really?" is the
most common reaction Heather Maselli, a 20-year old English major, has
encountered when she gives students the lowdown on how much and how
often fellow classmates are drinking.
"'Have you seen the
boxes in the basement with all those bottles?' they ask," said
Maselli, who is also the editor of the campus newspaper Pauw Wow. "I
say, 'Learn moderation.'"
Simona Dambauskas, a 20-year-old
international business major and another Miss Information, said the
campaign's key is peer level communication.
"It's like when you
are in high school and there is this 80-year-old woman teaching you
about sex, drugs, and tobacco," Dambauskas described. "People
are like, 'What does she know?' . This works."
Dambauskas, who is also president
of the college's multi-cultural Heritage Club, said her own drinking
dropped off between her freshman and sophomore year.
"You realize you have
to graduate and drinking is not going to help you," she said.
William Murphy, a Mr. Information,
agreed. The 20-year-old philosophy and theological major said watching
his buddies get drunk got old fast.
"You come in thinking
this is what college is like," he explained. "Some people
constantly make bad choices."
Philip Benson, a 20-year
old biology major, credits a friend with getting him caped and crowned.
The Mr. Information activity
he's most looking forward to is dorm room checks. That's where Benson
and his fellow crownees will be searching campus residences - not for
contraband, but for their campaign's red and white "Healthy Choices"
If they find one hanging
on a dorm room wall, that resident will receive $10, Benson said.
Ken Thorbourne covers education.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright 2004 The Jersey