Utilizing Talk About It to Create a Healthy Campus Climate
By Jennifer Waryas, Health Marketing Coordinator at the University of San Francisco
The health of the entire campus community depends on a climate that is conducive to learning. Campus climate affects many aspects of the college experience, ranging from how students engage with alcohol and drugs and what part social norming plays in consumption to how students understand consent and other facts about sexual assault.
For many students in their first semester, developing healthy habits at the start of their college career is key. Through collaboration between departments, incoming students see a united front and receive materials that are in alignment with Think About It’s harm-reduction messaging. We seek to empower students by informing and educating them without resorting to scare tactics. By treating students as adults, we provide the opportunity for them to make their own healthy decisions.
Since students are required to take the first Think About It course before they arrive on campus, they are exposed to topics that they may or may not have experience with when they arrive. The messaging is echoed in materials and workshops provided during orientation. SHaRE (Student Housing and Residential Education) provides Alcohol Poisoning magnets and safe partying guides to all the dorm rooms. In one of the many presentations that students received as part of orientation this past Fall, Peter Novak, Vice Provost of Student Life, conducted a sexual assault workshop depicting an intimate encounter between two students. At each point in the encounter, students in the audience were asked to identify if consent was being given by showing a red or green card. The workshop allowed students to apply their knowledge of consent and generated interesting discussions among the participants.
Another collaboration with SHaRE is a dedicated bulletin board display in the residence hall common area for Talk About It displays. These change monthly and cover topics including domestic violence, self-image, healthy relationships, and alcohol and drug awareness.
The Gender & Sexuality Center (GSC) and Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) utilize Talk About It sexual assault brochures created for survivors, mandatory reporters, friends of victim/survivors, and those who have been accused. Public safety uses a warning signs card with Talk About It branding for students who have had a drug or alcohol incident. It is used simultaneously as a way to make the officers a part of the educational experience as well as to engage the student by asking a couple of provocative questions that may help them reflect on their lifestyle. To continue to encourage students to drink responsibly, Student Life issues birthday cards for students turning 21 which reinforce information from the party smart/safe guide.
A couple of pieces currently in production include a deck of cards that offers information such as common signs of alcohol poisoning and domestic violence, information from the USF health clinic, nutrition facts, and a sexual decision making handbook (in the form of an interactive PDF) that we are naming YOLO (“you only live once… Live with purpose”) that offers information on a variety of topics from healthy relationships to identity concerns and healthy date options.
We are also working with faculty to continue to find new ways to integrate Talk About It into the curriculum.
Talk About It has been an important piece of USF’s efforts to empower students to make safe and healthy decisions. The consistent messaging has made key learning points memorable. The branding has made the messages visible. And the various workshops and materials have involved the whole campus in our efforts.