In an ongoing effort to reduce alcohol abuse among students, CSUN is one of eight California universities to receive part of a $700,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety.
The grant is part of a project that brings California Highway Patrol, local campus police and university communities together to implement an alcohol awareness campaign, stated the California OTS website.
Of the $700,000 given, CSUN received a mini-grant of approximately $63,000 in order to continue to implement current drug and alcohol-related programs aimed at students. These programs are a collaborative effort between the Klotz Student Health Center and the Department of Public Safety.
“A lot of the money is set aside for educational materials, training for peer educators and a Social Norms campaign,” said Marianne Link, assistant director of health promotion for the Klotz Student Health Center. “There are a variety of programs, services, and activities planned.”
The Social Norms campaign is one such program aimed at students. Jeff Linkenbach, director of Most of Us, a social-norms marketing firm based at Montana State University-Bozeman, created the campaign in 1998.
Social Norms Marketing is a national program used on college campuses to address the link between what students perceive as “normal” or “typical” and their consequent behaviors.
The Social Norms Theory states that if students believe most of their peers drink alcohol, they are more likely to do so themselves. The goal of the program, as stated on the Most of Us website is “to realign people’s perception with reality” to show that “the majority of one’s peers are acting in a positive or healthy way.”
“Social Norms is another example of how important it is to involve students in these programs,” said Sharon Aronoff, health educator for Student Health Outreach at the Klotz Student Health Center. “Supporting peer education is really important.”
Peer counseling has become an important part of how CSUN deals with the issue of students and alcohol.
“We like to recruit students to become peer educators from many different majors,” said Link. “They provide one-on-one education to students and participate in presentations.”
The Department of Public Safety is also involved in raising awareness and providing information about student alcohol abuse.
“We provide presentations upon request,” said Christina Villalobos, special assistant to the Chief of Police. “We also organize hands-on activities to make the learning experience well-rounded.”
Sobriety checkpoints are included in the program, as collaboration between the campus police and CHP. The checkpoints provide yet another opportunity to educate the student population on the dangers of alcohol abuse.
“The police department periodically holds sobriety checkpoints on the streets surrounding campus,” said Villalobos. “The check points are then used to educate the drivers that are stopped about the consequences and risks (of driving drunk).”
Student programs and sobriety checkpoints have long been part of a national campaign to educate the public on the dangers of drunk driving.
The California Office of Traffic Safety implemented the “Every 15 Minutes” program in the early 1980s after statistics showed that “every 15 minutes someone in the United States was killed in an alcohol-related traffic collision,” according to the OTS website.
In accordance with the “Every 15 Minutes” program, presentations and demonstrations were organized on school campuses illustrating the effects of drunk driving and alcohol abuse.
Counseling programs, presentations and other interactive methods have been successful in lowering the death rate due to drunk driving and other alcohol related incidents, yet the problem hasn’t gone away.
In 2006 there were 17,602 reported deaths in the United States due to alcohol-related traffic accidents, the Mothers Against Drunk Driving website stated. This comes out to one death every 30 minutes.
The health center, in conjunction with other student organizations, plans to organize speakers and events such as the Save A Life Tour, which will happen in April.
The other grant recipients include CSU Channel Islands, Fresno, Humboldt, Los Angeles, Maritime Academy, San Jose and San Francisco.