An increase in university produced anti-drinking ads around campus has been trying to send a simple message to Marquette students: not everyone drinks.
The Backout Before Blackout campaign began last year with help from NCAA CHOICES funding (a grant program aiming to integrate athletics into campus-wide efforts to reduce alcohol abuse) and a partnership with the Office of Student Development and Intercollegiate Athletics to encourage students to reevaluate their drinking behaviors.
The initiative has spread to Facebook, Twitter and advertisements in student media publications.
Sara Johnson, the coordinator for alcohol programs on campus and head of the campaign, said the NCAA provided $30,000 for funding, which helped commission a student graphic artist to create designs for the initiative.
Johnson said although the Backout Before Blackout campaign is a preventative program, it is unfair to say it has improved student safety by itself.
“Here at Marquette we have a number of prevention and brief intervention programs and services in place, so attributing a reduction in accidents directly correlative to the Backout Before Blackout campaign when there are multiple other educational endeavors in place would not be a correct assessment,” Johnson said.
Rather, Kathleen Simet, a learning specialist for the athletic department, said the best use of the campaign is to promote harm-and-risk-reduction.
“We are asking students to pledge personal responsible use of alcohol, to watch out for their friends, to call for help when or if it is needed, and … to give back to the Marquette community,” Simet said.
Johnson and Simet agreed that most of the 1,850 students who signed the pledge (which was introduced to campus at Preview 2011) understood that Backout Before Blackout is a means of representing the community.
However, students such as Jordy Anderson, a junior in the College of Business Administration, think Marquette has intentionally ramped up the message this semester.
“I’ve been noticing a lot more of the ‘Backout’ posters and related things around campus,” Anderson said. “I think the program fails to give people a little slack on going out and having fun.”
Johnson said the addition of advertisements was part of a developed social marketing campaign.
“(It’s) meant to visually over-saturate an environment,” Johnson said. “We hope by seeing the campaign students feel supported, or challenged, and that they take a moment to consider their own actions, beliefs and ideals.”
The campaign’s website serves as a resource center where students can take the Golden Eagle Pledge promising to understand their responsibility in consuming alcohol and maintaining awareness. Other features includes a BAC calculator and a pass-through link to the “We are Marquette. Who are you?” campaign, which is a six-week social norming initiative aimed at evaluating behaviors related to high-risk alcohol consumption and sexual assault prevention.
Anderson, however, believes blacking out is a reality on this campus and has seen it first hand. Still, she added that the campaign is beneficial as it aims to protect student health and well-being.
“I think that if you blackout continuously, it leads to bad behavior,” Anderson said.
According to the university’s alcohol policy, Marquette “will not tolerate disregard for the law or behaviors and practices that counter the education of the whole person or inhibit rigorous scholarship. Consequently, the university does not condone underage drinking and considers intoxication, disorderliness or offensive behavior deriving from the use of alcoholic beverages to be unacceptable, regardless of a person’s age.”
Blacking out, perhaps lying in the university’s offensive behavior precept, is something Anderson feels may be avoided if students established their own safety precautions without relying on others’ aid.
“It’s important to know your surroundings and go out with people you trust,” Anderson said.