Campaign urges college students to 'Stop at Buzzed'by Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
Since last fall, at least two college-age Minnesotans have died as a result of drinking too much alcohol. Two other deaths, suspected to be drinking related, are under investigation. Those deaths have drawn attention to campaigns designed to stop binge drinking at Minnesota colleges. At the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University in central Minnesota, that effort takes on a different tone.
Collegeville, Minn. — A student-run campaign on the two campuses doesn't ask students to stop drinking altogether, but rather to stop drinking when they feel "buzzed."
Here's a definition of the alcohol-induced buzz from college student Kia Becht.
"You're relaxed," Becht said. "You're having fun, but you're not to the point that everything is starting to spin. You're still able to carry on a conversation that's not filled with slurs. You can walk straight."
Becht is a senior at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University. She's also part of the anti-binge drinking campaign called "Stop at Buzzed."
The idea behind the four-year-old effort is that college students drink to have fun. So she asks, why not stop drinking while you're still having fun?
"You don't need to go to this blackout drunk, where you're not even going to remember the times you had with your friends. With the message 'Stop at Buzzed,' we hope people know when they're done and hang out," Becht said.
"Stop at Buzzed" steers clear of wagging fingers and dire warnings of health problems associated with heavy drinking. The campaign features posters placed around campus that show consequences much more real to young people.
One poster warns, "Nicknames last forever," and shows a young woman with her face in a garbage can. She's earned the nickname "Puking Princess."
Lori Klapperich is the health promotion coordinator on campus and advises the "Stop at Buzzed" campaign. Klapperich says the effort acknowledges that while students do drink, they should know their limits.
"It's not saying 'Don't do it,'" Klapperich said. "It's not saying "Do do it.' It's illustrating it, so perhaps they'll stop and think, 'Is that what I want to be? Is that what I want to do?'"
Klapperich says while the campaign encourages students to be responsible when they drink, it also informs underage students of the many legal consequences they face if they're caught with alcohol.
It's easy to find student opinions on the "Stop at Buzzed" campaign during happy hour at Brother Willie's Pub on the St. John's University campus.
Identification cards are checked at the door to make sure students here are old enough to drink legally.
Several students sit at a long table in the middle of the pub, playing cards and drinking beer.
One of them is Jessica Jensen from Mankato. Jensen likes the low-pressure message of the "Stop at Buzzed" campaign. But she admits she doesn't always stop at buzzed herself.
"There's always the temptation of, 'Tequila shot? One more? OK!' That kind of spirals," Jensen said.
Across the table sits Kati McCoy from Denver. While McCoy admits she, too, tends to go past the point of being buzzed, "Stop at Buzzed" has caught her attention.
"I think it's good because it addresses the fact that college students are still going to drink, regardless of whether or not our administration tells us not to. So instead of flat out telling us not to, they just remind us of the risks," McCoy said.
Students may approve of the way the message is delivered, but it's uncertain whether this style of campaign actually works.
A 2003 study from the Harvard School of Public Health casts doubt on similar types of anti-drinking campaigns. The study found the campaigns weren't effective, and didn't lower binge drinking rates among students.
But at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, organizers of an anti-binge drinking effort say they're seeing positive results.
The college's Susanne Williams leads the campaign. Williams said before it started in 2004, 58 percent of students said they engaged in risky drinking behavior.
"In 2007 though, the rate has dropped 17 percent down to 41.6 percent," Williams said. "We're very pleased with that decline."
Williams hopes to see another decline in over-the-top drinking when students are surveyed again this year.
Meanwhile, organizers of the anti-binge drinking effort at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University say they'll do a survey soon to determine if their effort does get students to "Stop at Buzzed."
- Morning Edition, 03/20/2008, 7:20 a.m.