Instead of a negative approach to alcohol, Kansas University is teaching of-age students what it means to drink responsibly.
Wagging fingers about alcohol use on university campuses hasn't seemed to work.
So Kansas University is trying a kinder, gentler approach.
Unveiled this summer at new-student orientation, the "social norms model" focuses on what's important to many college students -- what their peers are doing.
Instead of telling of-age students "no, no, no," the university is giving them information about what it means to drink reasonably.
KU -- as well as Emporia State University and Fort Hays State University -- received a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation to implement a model developed at Northern Illinois University.
"That model is called the social norms model," said Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett, principal investigator for the grant. "It's based on years of social psychology research. The basic assumption is that most people want their behavior to match what their peer group's behavior is. Interestingly, most students think their peers are drinking a lot more than their peers really are."
KU will use its $450,000 four-year grant for a media blitz promoting a common-sense approach to drinking.
"It doesn't get into scare tactics," McCluskey-Fawcett said. "The data are pretty clear that the scare tactics don't work."
Where the model has been used -- at Northern Illinois University and the University of Arizona -- irresponsible drinking has decreased by 20 percent to 40 percent, said McCluskey-Fawcett, associate provost at KU.
"Apparently Missouri is starting the model," she added. "At the moment it seems to be the only thing that's making a difference."
KU participated in a Joint City-University Task Force, which met for six months. The group included representatives from KU, Haskell Indian Nations University, the Lawrence school district and the Douglas County district attorney's office as well as bar owners and students.
The diverse group made its final report and recommendations in December to KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway, Haskell President Bob Martin, the school district and the city commission.
The task force learned that students don't learn to drink on campus. By the time they get to KU, many already have taken that first drink.
Although KU cannot share its grant money with Haskell or the school district, it will share its ideas, and progress on campus should spread, said Jeff Weinberg, assistant to the chancellor.
"Any concerted efforts that are made to deal with the problem of alcohol on the KU campus will have an indirect effect on the entire community," he said. "We'll be in conversation with our colleagues. There are going to be some side effects of what we're doing."
-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
In December, a Joint City-University Task Force, made several suggestions to curb irresponsible drinking. The suggestions include that: