Kansas Health Foundation renews grant for Social Norms Project

More students may continue to practice safe drinking habits at Fort Hays State University due to the Kansas Health Foundation's extension of the Kansas Social Norms Project grant.

The project began in 1999 as a four-year, campus-wide media campaign to educate students about the actual drinking behaviors of other students versus perceived drinking behaviors.

"Many students overestimate the drinking behaviors of their peers, so they end up drinking more than they should because they think it's normal," said Bob Duffy, coordinator of the Drug Alcohol Wellness Network at FHSU and coordinator of the project.

The Kansas Health Foundation initially granted the project over $300,000 of which $20,000 remains.

"The new grant is not a renewal of the funds, but an extension of the amount of time we have to use the remaining dollar amount," said Duffy.

Most of the project's funding is spent on student surveys, project promotion and salaries of the parties involved.

The Drug Alcohol Wellness Network conducts a random survey each year asking students about their personal drinking behaviors. The survey, which is administered to a random sample of more than 500 students, includes questions about drinking and driving versus using a designated driver, mixing one's own drinks versus accepting mixed drinks from others, and drinking alone versus drinking with friends.

According to the most recent survey, conducted by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs, 85 percent of FHSU students drink. However, since the first survey in 1999, the percentage of students who drink safely has increased.

When the project began, only 64 percent of students used a designated driver; today the number is up to 76 percent. Also, the number of students who limit the amount of money they take out with them has increased along with the number of students who only party with friends they know and trust.

To help promote the project, the Kansas Department of Transportation provides key chains, coasters and cups displaying the project's facts about students who use designated drivers. Many of the cups are given to local restaurant and bar owners who provide complimentary soft drinks to designated drivers as part of the Campus Blast program.

Duffy said he is pleased with the results of the recent surveys and expects a continued increase in safe drinking habits among students.

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Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu