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Student Life to launch drug and alcohol prevention program

in NEWS by

By Matthew Laurrie

Features Assignment Editor

St. Bonaventure’s Student Life Division devised a program over the summer to reduce the number of alcohol and drug related incidents on campus in the coming year, and raise awareness about making responsible choices. The result was the launch of a campus-wide campaign called Life: It’s Up to You.

According to the 2011 St. Bonaventure Annual Security and Fire Safety Report released this year, alcohol and drug related incidents have increased on campus over the past year. Last year, 437 incidents involving violations of New York State liquor laws resulted in disciplinary action for students on campus; an increase of 66 cases from 2010. Additionally, last year, 48 incidents involving violations of drug laws also resulted in disciplinary action for students on campus; an increase of 23 cases from 2010.

Rick Trietley, vice provost for Student Life, said with the number of alcohol and drug related incidents on the rise, the Student Life Division looked to develop an approach that would assuage the amount of documented cases in the coming year and in the future.

“The entire issue of alcohol and drugs on college campuses is a nationwide problem, and we’re no different at St. Bonaventure,” Trietley said. “What we discovered as we looked hard at our statistics from last year (was) that we had seen in an increase in alcohol and drug related incidents. We wanted to be proactive and develop a strategy to help educate our students to give them strategies for drinking responsibly … and allow them to have a great time in their college experience, but do it in a responsible manner.”

The Student Life Division examined these statistics and developed a plan of action over the summer that would raise awareness about the long-term and short-term effects of alcohol and other drug use, while simultaneously decreasing the amount of alcohol and drug related incidents on campus.

The program is a unified collaboration between each sector of the Student Life Division, which includes Residential Education; Campus Activities, Recreation and Leadership; the Career and Professional Readiness Center; Safety and Security; the Damietta Center; Judicial Affairs; and the Center for Student Wellness.

Michael Blankenship, a graduate student in the Integrated Marketing Communication program worked on the marketing campaign for Life: It’s Up to You. Blankenship discussed the overall intention and purpose of the program.

“We’re looking to integrate all of the efforts of the Student Life Offices into a concerted effort to help with the incidents of alcohol and drug use on campus,” Blankenship said.

The branding concept for the campaign comes from the board game, the Game of Life: Where Will Your Choices Take You? The SBU campaign will use the idea from the board game to encourage student participation in activities that stress the importance of making sustainable choices and partaking in responsible behavior with regard to alcohol and drug use.

“So for us, we’re looking at this as, Life: It’s Up to You,” Blankenship said. “Our promotional plan is to focus on … the choices you can make now, the responsible choices you can have today that will lead to a better life – the life that you actually want to have – going forward.”

Nichole Gonzalez, executive director of residential living and chief judicial officer, said each unit within the Student Life Division came up with two specific learning outcomes they will use as a catalyst for teaching students about the importance of exercising healthy personal choices when it comes to alcohol and other drugs.

“Each of our departments within the division came up with at least two specific alcohol and other drug related things that we wanted to accomplish that can be related to our areas,” Gonzalez said.

In addition to a specific initiative, each department came up with an activity and strategy to measure how well they are disseminating information about alcohol and other drugs to students. At the end of the year, Gonzalez said the Student Life Division would look at its goals from the beginning of the year and evaluate how they were executed.

“We will be able to look (at) all of these things we set out to accomplish, what we accomplished (and) what are some things we can look at and say, ‘we attacked the issue of alcohol and other drug use and these are the areas in which we were successful (and) this is how we were successful,’” Gonzalez said. “Inevitably we know there are going to be areas we know we still need to work on.”

The Student Life Division used its list of previously established “domains and dimensions” – an outline of the objectives they hope students gain during their time at SBU – to plan anticipated outcomes. After reviewing the list of general objectives, the Student Life Division developed a separate, more specific template specifically targeted at measuring the effectiveness of the Life: It’s Up to You campaign, according to Gonzalez.

“In Student Life we have, for several years, had a set of learning outcomes that were basically what we wanted our students to have experience and knowledge of (and) that we want our students to have gained as a result of being students here at St. Bonaventure,” Gonzalez said. “So, what we did is we took our outcomes and we organized them into this new (format).”

Blankenship said the campaign will be introduced in three phases. The first phase, which began this month, will last three weeks. It will introduce the concept of Life: It’s Up to You to the campus community. Posters around campus will highlight iconic elements from the Game of Life along with distinctive alcohol and drug paraphernalia to garner attention. Social media sites and online sources will also be utilized to distribute images and campaign graphics.

The second phase will begin in the coming months and last until the end of the semester. It will integrate the recognizable Life: It’s Up to You imagery with the specific messages sponsored by each department in the Student Life Division.

“We’re going to be taking this imagery (and) these recognizable elements and putting them in the context of student life,” Blankenship said. “We’re going to have a series of promotional messages that relate to each of the individual offices of Student Life and relating a program or a service that they provide that can help students make a responsible choice now with regards to drugs and alcohol, so that they have a better life going forward.”

The third phase, which will be introduced next semester, will create a social game related to the Game of Life. In the actual board game, players accumulate “life tiles” as they make their way around the board. Blankenship said this concept would be adapted and incorporated into the campaign. Each time a student participates in an event sponsored by Student Life, they will receive “student life tiles” to turn in at the end of the semester and be entered into a drawing for a prize.

Trietley said the Life: It’s Up to You campaign is an interesting and interactive way to prompt students to make beneficial, lasting changes in some of their behaviors related to alcohol and other drug use.

“For me, it’s much more than just awareness – I want to see a behavioral change, but we want to do it in a way that we’re not preaching to students,” Trietley said “We want them to come to their own conclusion that making smart, healthy choices is important. It’s going to help. It will really force people to think about their choices and that’s our goal.”

According to Gonzalez, the campaign fits right into Bonaventure’s mission of living the good life. It’s not enough just to acquire information, she said. It’s about using that knowledge to spark change and promote the value of learning.

“What Bonaventure is all about, and what makes us unique, is that we’re interested in more than just getting information (to) have information,” she said. “We’re about using information and receiving that education so that we can better ourselves.”

Gonzalez said she looks forward to seeing how Life: It’s Up to You positively impacts the campus community.

“I feel like this (program) is the first substantive, concerted effort that we’ve had and I’m very, very, very excited about this.”

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