Cover StoryNews

Dean of Students office looks to change portrayal of ‘the other side of college’

The University of Oregon’s Substance Abuse Prevention Program@@ has its work cut out for them. Their mission — an operation of the Dean of Students’ office@@ — is to change current and prospective students’ views on what it means to be a college student.

While tidings of the UO’s rowdy antics travel slowly by word-of-mouth, multimedia snapshots provide a quick and modern look at student festivities and an intensified stigma for SAPP to fight against.

Jennifer Summers,@@[email protected]@ director of substance abuse prevention, says the biggest thing to overcome is the public’s impression of how students act.

“Our main strategy is to try and help students, the local community and the nation recognize that college is much more than any party,” she said. “We know that the number one thing that can contribute to students drinking more is the perception that students are drinking more.”

A multimedia piece was recently released by collegiate life documentarian media company The College Culture.@@[email protected]@ The Southern California-based start-up, whose goal is to capture “the other side of college,”@@[email protected]@ has produced short films documenting party life at notable West Coast schools, like the University of Colorado at Boulder, Cal Poly, University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Arizona.@@[email protected]@

With the College Culture’s most recent stop turning its eye on the UO, the film showcases the student social scene and snapshots of iconic Eugene locations including Spencer Butte, Autzen Stadium and 13th Avenue. It shows students drinking before a football game and the after parties celebrating a big win.

Summers said while the film shows some good things about Eugene and the UO, it also paints an inaccurate picture of typical student behavior.

The American College Health Association@@ publishes an assessment on health of college students at institutions across the country. Their most recent data on the UO shows that only 75.6 percent of students use alcohol (PDF). The assessment also looks at perceived alcohol use by students, accounting for how often a student sees others around them drinking, which sits at 96 percent.

Summers believes videos like this one contribute to the inaccurate notion of how many students are actually drinking.

“It’s got the ‘O,’ it’s got the Duck, it’s got highlights from some of the things that are truly happening in the campus community,” she said, “but then you’ve also got it where it tries to bridge in these pictures that don’t showcase what the normal behaviors of most of our students are.”

But it’s not just administrators reacting to the video. Student peer health educators in the substance abuse prevention program were also concerned about the message disseminated by the film.

“I thought the beginning of the video was awesome; it shows Eugene as kind of the hidden gem of Oregon,” said Ashley Penington,@@*[email protected]@ peer health educator and human physiology major. “But what upset me the most was I don’t want prospective students to coming here to think UO is about crazy college drinking when there is so much more to the culture of who our students are.”

Penington and the other peer health educators say their job is not about getting students to stop drinking, but to get them to drink and party in a manner that is safe for everyone. She and fellow peer health educator Stacee Curtis@@*[email protected]@ want to educate students on how alcohol and drugs can negatively effect their bodies if used in extreme excess.

“As peer health educators, we are not trying to send out a ‘don’t drink’ message,” Curtis said, “but we don’t want potential students to see this and think they have to act this way to fit in here, because that’s not portraying a safe image.”

In order to work against this view, Penington, Curtis and other peer health educators offer presentations to student groups, Fraternity and Sorority Life, as well as freshmen in residence halls to break the myths and provide facts about drinking. Penington said helping her classmates understand more about the human body and how alcohol affects it has been the most gratifying part of being a peer health educator.

“It’s been really rewarding for us to go into to situations where you know you’re not going to keep them from drinking, but you can see they’re learning,” she said. “I just hope something beneficial comes out it.”

Do you appreciate independent student journalism? Emerald Media Group is a non-profit organization. Please consider a donation to support our mission.



Tell us what you think:

Sam Stites

Sam Stites