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Campaign Provides Positive Reinforcement for Students

PLATTSBURGH, NY __ The posters say "4 or Fewer," but the campaign that calls attention to students' drinking habits is more than just posters.

It's the means to the message, said Jerimy Blowers, health educator at the Student Health and Psychological Services Center at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh. Blowers is in charge of a campaign to promote responsibility. "The posters are the outward face of the campaign. It's more about an idea, a message that reflects back to students what they themselves have reported."

The fact is that the majority of SUNY Plattsburgh students have four or fewer drinks a week -- a statistic that seems out of line with the image of partying college students.

"It's true," Blowers said. "When we first started the campaign, I'd have students say they like the posters, but they weren't sure the information was true. I tell them it's not my information; it came from a survey that students responded to."

The survey asked students a variety of questions, including their drinking habits.

"When the stats came back, we found that more than 50 percent drink four or fewer a week," he said. "I've had students come up to me and say the don't drink and by seeing this message on the posters, they know that others don't as well. It makes them feel their choice is a good one, that others are out there making the same choice. To those students who say the slogan is 'garbage,' that it's not true, I want to talk to them and have them tell me why."

The point is just that: To get students talking.

"We want students to be comfortable with their own decisions. Whether or not they drink at all or do so in moderation, perhaps seeing this will motivate them to think about it more," he said.

From the posters, Blowers hopes students will see that this is their project. His office sponsors giveaways of note pads, pens, phone calling cards with information on the issues surrounding alcohol use.

The overall campaign is part of a $250,000 grant from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS).

"It's a sizeable grant, and one we're very proud of, being one of only seven schools in New York to have received one," Blowers said. Funding is spread out over four years, and the campaign also includes the Drinking is Not a Minor Problem Program, which targets underage drinking.

"I would love to say the programs we do have the greatest impact on the choices our students make, but I've learned enough to know its our older students on the floors in the residence halls who tell the younger students when they're misbehaving or participating in risky behaviors," he said. "That's the biggest influence, and hopefully, this campaign will follow suit."

For more information on the "4 or Fewer" campaign or the OASAS grant, contact Student Health and Psychological Services Center at 518-564-2187.

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