Student club seeks to change Rutgers' drinking culture
"RU SURE? Changing the Culture of College Drinking," a campaign founded by the Center for Communication and Health Issues (CHI) in 2001, focuses on addressing misconceptions about college drinking for first-year students, said Joseph Bae, head of CHI.
“The campaign seeks to change the misperceptions that Rutgers students have about Rutgers' drinking culture. Statistically, 2 out of 3 Rutgers students stop at three drinks or fewer, while 1 in 5 don’t drink at all,” Bae said.
Rutgers ranks as the 14th biggest party school in the country out of 1,373 colleges, according to an article by NJ Advance Media. This can add to the misperceptions about Rutgers drinking culture, Bae said.
“First-year students have this misperception of Rutgers as this party school, as this drinking school. They believe everybody at Rutgers drinks, and that everybody at Rutgers drinks to get drunk, when statistically, that’s not true,” he said.
Not everyone drinks to have a fulfilling college experience, Bae said.
“There is this misperception that in order to have that real, authentic college experience or make authentic friendships, there needs to be drinking involved,” he said.
Many students who choose to abstain from alcohol do so for personal or religious reasons, Bae said. In all, a fifth of the population does not drink at all.
Bae said the misconceptions about drinking are not about the actual physical impacts of alcohol, but instead the culture of drinking itself.
“I think what people don’t understand about drinking mostly comes about in terms of the culture of drinking. Students are well-aware of the effects of drinking. If you drink too much, you’re more prone to violence, you’re more prone to hurting yourself. Rates of sexual violence go up with alcohol use. I think, in a general sense, students do know those things, but in the back of their minds, they also think that everyone does it,” he said.
The campaign promotes its message in several ways, including holding on-campus events, Bae said. The events are held at locations such as the RutgersZone at the Livingston Student Center, among others.
The campaign also partners with Health Outreach, Promotion and Education (HOPE). This organization works to advance health and wellness at the University through community engagement and innovation, according to its website.
Bae said the events held by the campaign hold a dual purpose.
“We just try to do a lot of events that serve a twofold purpose. One of those purposes is obviously to disseminate our message, but the second part of it is that we want to give students who don’t drink an outlet, or a place to go on those weekend nights,” he said.
Dangerous drinking trends do seem to be improving over time, Bae said. Statistically, there have been trends, both at Rutgers and nationwide, of dangerous drinking percentages dropping and abstinence rising.
Despite these trends, the impacts may not be a result of the "RU SURE?" campaign, Bae said.
“As much as I’d like to say that our campaign played a role in that, it’s not like we have empirical data or internal data to show that we caused these trends,” he said.