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HWS Professors Pen Case Study for the Department of Education's Higher Education Center

Posted on Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Model program at Hobart and William Smith sets the standard for the social norms approach to helping students make healthy choices about alcohol consumption.

April 18, 2002 Geneva, N.Y. -- When the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention wanted to provide a case study on the social norms approach to alcohol abuse prevention, they turned to Hobart and William Smith Colleges professors H. Wesley Perkins and David Craig. The two collaborated on the publication, "A Multifaceted Social Norms Approach to Reduce High-Risk Drinking: Lessons from Hobart and William Smith Colleges," which is now available online. The case study will soon be available in print as well, for the thousands who seek information on what the social norms approach offers and how to implement it.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the publication will be an invaluable tool for leaders at institutions of higher education and in secondary education around the country. The publication provides detailed examples of the comprehensive social norms efforts developed at Hobart and William Smith, and modeled across the nation, using print media, electronic communications, and curriculum infusion strategies. The publication includes an extensive evaluation of data demonstrating the positive impact the program has had at the Colleges and around the country.

Perkins, dubbed by The Los Angeles Times as the Father of the Social Norms Theory, has collaborated with Craig for several years now to develop this model fully. Despite recent reports that "binge drinking" is pervasive on college campuses, Perkins points out that drinking is actually not on the rise overall and that most students do not engage in high-risk drinking. Nonetheless, students erroneously believe that most of their peers are heavy drinkers, a misperception that helps sustain the risky drinking that is truly a concern at most schools. At the same time he has demonstrated that at both colleges and secondary schools, when a social norms approach correcting misperceptions has been intensively implemented, a decrease in high-risk drinking and other unhealthy behavior related to alcohol and other drugs has been the result.

Those interested in reading the complete text of the case study will find it at http://www.edc.org/hec/pubs/hws.pdf.

Perkins also recently published "Social Norms and the Prevention of Alcohol Misuse in Collegiate Contexts" in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol. To access that document, go to http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/Reports/Journal/164-Perkins2.pdf.

Perkins and Craig recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Higher Education to fund another initiative, titled "Most Valuable Players--A Project Reinforcing Positive Norms, Correcting Misperceptions, and Reducing High Risk Drinking Among Student-Athletes." The program is currently underway at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges are coordinate, private, liberal arts institutions, located in Geneva, N.Y., the heart of the Finger Lakes region. The Colleges, which have a combined enrollment of 1,800, offer a remarkably broad array of majors and minors, with a cross-disciplinary flavor intended to better inform both professional and intellectual pursuits. The Colleges are noted also for an ambitious emphasis on international study, and for their programs in community service. Hobart College for men and William Smith College for women share faculty, facilities, and curriculum, but maintain separate dean's offices, athletics programs, student governments, and traditions.

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