While educators across the country continue to examine student lifestyles in a search for ways to decrease binge drinking rates among college students, some believe the root of the problem may stem from broad, cultural ideologies and not just the influences of a college campus.

“One theory is that as a society we don”t teach our young people to drink responsibly,” said Carol Boyd, director of the University Substance Abuse Research Center.

“No one taught responsible drinking in high school,” said Engineering senior Matthew Liston.

Patrice Flax, an alcohol initiatives coordinator from the University Health Service, said the prevalence of alcohol in the media helps students form certain attitudes and values about the issue of alcohol.

“We see it so much we don”t think about it any more,” she said.

Dr. Daniel Pak, University director of special projects, said the University”s attempts to decrease binge drinking, from the formation of special commissions to investigative reports, have not been successful.

“Unfortunately, we have not seen the effects of those efforts. There is no evidence that binge drinking has decreased. In fact, there is evidence that it has increased,” he said.

Pak said that following alcohol-related deaths of two Korean students since 1997, one area of specific concern is the drinking habits of ethnic-minority students.

“The research is so lacking that we have no idea what”s going on,” Pak said. “The lack of a multicultural approach to research may have contributed to the fact that we haven”t had an effect on students.”

Pak called for future ethnic-specific research to provide effective policies and services.

LSA sophomore Daniel Reiger, leader of Promoting Alcohol Responsibility Through You, a student group that promotes alcohol responsibility on campus, recognizes how overarching cultural expectations make binge drinking difficult to combat.

“I”m not sure there”s anything concrete to attack,” he said.

P.A.R.T.Y. was founded last semester with the goal of tackling alcohol issues in the most integrated way possible, Reiger said.

The group”s first initiative was to mail birthday cards to University students on their 21st birthdays. The cards read, “Remember, a toast to your future is worth nothing if you”re not here to enjoy it,” and ask students to celebrate responsibly. The mailings began in the third week of this semester, Reiger said.

“It”s an issue that needs to be addressed, but it was not being addressed how it should be,” he said, suggesting that initiatives taken from the perspective of students may be more effective in promoting responsible drinking. P.A.R.T.Y is the first student-run organization that focuses on alcohol issues on campus.

While some students believe that any message is more effective when it comes from peers, some disagree.

“If I got this card in the mail, I wouldn”t think twice about it at the bar,” Liston said. “I think that if students are going to control students, it would have to be your friends.”

In recent years, several universities have started social norms marketing advertising campaigns that provide students with accurate information about how many students drink alcohol and how much they drink.

“Students” perceptions of other students” drinking behavior is often higher than what actually goes on, and that may make them more likely to drink more,” Pak said.

Some administrators believe spreading awareness that not all students engage in frequent binges might cause some to drink less.

The University began social norms marketing in 1995, but stopped this initiative in 1999 when it became part of the Social Norms Marketing Research Project a five-year nationwide study evaluating the effectiveness of these marketing campaigns on 32 college campuses, said Marsha Benz, UHS health and education coordinator.

The study, administered by the Boston-based Education Development Center, includes the University as part of a control group that must abstain from any form of social norms marketing.

The University has been matched with a similar, undisclosed school that is part of the intervention group and currently utilizing social norms marketing on its campus. The effectiveness of these marketing strategies will be measured by comparing schools within the two groups after the study is completed.

“I”d prefer to be part of the intervention, but even as part of the control group we”re going to have access to a lot of different things we wouldn”t have otherwise,” Benz said.

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