Aug. 29, 2005
By Susan Green
High-risk drinking is among the most serious problems on college campuses today. Not only does it interfere with the mission of higher education, it can result in injury and death. In national surveys, students cite a desire to get drunk and a campus culture of alcohol consumption among their reasons for indulging in high-risk drinking.
Ohio University is serious about changing the conditions that shape that environment. The Bring Your Own Judgment (BYOJ) campaign is just one tool that illustrates that commitment.
Seven years ago, Ohio University initiated BYOJ to focus on sexual assault as one of the more egregious consequences of high-risk drinking. A hallmark of the second phase of that campaign was peer-to-peer messaging. While BYOJ had an impact on the sexual health issue, it didn't change high-risk drinking patterns, says Char Kopchick, director of Health Education and Wellness.
When talking with Ohio University students about their drinking habits, Kopchick discovered that most students drink to "get a buzz," so she focused her efforts on minimizing the consequences that result from going beyond the buzz. Kopchick worked together with the social marketing committee of the Coalition Advocating Responsible Drinking Decisions (CARRD) and students to develop the Stop at the Buzz low-risk drinking messages.
"In order for students to change their behavior, we need to meet them where they're at so they can make low-risk decisions," Kopchick says. "We've had a good student response to this approach."
She urges parents to talk with their students about the dangers and consequences of high-risk drinking and the impression it gives the local community about college students. Kopchick realizes that Stop at the Buzz is a bold approach that focuses on risk reduction rather than abstinence, but she's quick to point out that it should not be construed as an endorsement for drinking.
"Char is doing the right thing in regard to underage and high-risk drinking with both BYOJ and Stop at the Buzz," says Anthony Ranalli, B.S.H.'05. "It's about changing your habits."
Ranalli should know. He worked for Kopchick as a peer health educator with POWER, an organization that focuses on issues facing today's college students, and is well versed on the topic. He appeared before University Judiciaries four times as a freshman for bringing beer into his residence hall, and was on the verge of being suspended from school.
"I've had my fair share of stories where I had too much to drink and did stupid things," he says. "Being involved with POWER and Health Education and Wellness taught me about growing up, respecting myself and taking responsibility for my actions."
Seventeen concepts were submitted to the Buzz Contest competition; more than 200 students chose the five best concepts from those entries; 753 students voted for the best video spots. The five finalists each won $500 in gift certificates to local merchants.
Click here to watch the winning videos.
The Buzz Contest is a campus-wide competition that took place last spring to create low-risk drinking concepts for television public service announcements built on the peer-to-peer messaging developed for BYOJ. The videos, produced by students, debuted at the Athena Cinema and, this fall, will appear on CATvision and local cable television. Each of the top five winners received $500 in certificates from stores and restaurants in Athens.
The Buzz Contest was made possible with generous financial contributions from the Ohio University Foundation Board of Trustees; University Courtyard; Frank Krasovec, BBA '65, MBA '66; Will Konneker, BS '43, MS '47; Charles Stuckey, BSM '66; James Daley, BBA '63; J. Patrick Campbell, BGS '71; University Courtyard.
Susan Green is a writer with University Communications and Marketing. A version of this story originally appeared in Outlook, spring 2005.