By Kenneth Billings/MSU University Relations
STARKVILE -Posters, napkins and other material promoting a Mississippi State campaign to reduce alcohol use and binge drinking by university students under the legal drinking age soon will begin appearing at Starkville area restaurants and bars.
The education and awareness program is supported by a U.S. Education Department grant of more than $355,000, with which MSU is leading a three-institution effort titled “Stay Dry: Mississippi Coalition of Partners in Prevention.”
The campus Division of Student Affairs and its health education and wellness department are co-sponsors with counterparts at Mississippi University for Women and University of Mississippi. The collaborative project is designed to reduce alcohol use and abuse by persons under 21 years, the state’s minimum legal drinking age.
“The university’s and community’s combined work to promote this initiative is vital to its success,” said April Heiselt, MSU assistant professor of counseling and educational psychology.
“The visibility of the campaign is important so students see that all parties and area businesses are committed to being a part of the solution,” she added.
Heiselt, along with MSU health education and wellness department director Joyce Yates, are co-principal investigators in planning, implementing and evaluating the grant.
Appearing in businesses that support the initiative, the colorful posters will bear messages illustrating the impact and consequences of underage and binge consumption. The material already has been placed in campus residence halls, Heiselt said.
Jennifer Glaze, the Greater Starkville Development Partnership’s vice president of tourism development, said the initiative enjoys overwhelming support among the business community.
“Area business owners are proud to be a part of this program because they know that keeping underage drinking at a minimum is a positive for everyone involved,” Glaze said. “The posters, napkins and other items promoting ‘Stay Dry’ will help students see that we take this seriously and are doing all we can to make it more difficult to drink if under the legal age.”
Heiselt said another campaign component also involves participating merchants–seizing fake identification cards used by underage patrons and returning to them a card that reinforces the “Stay Dry” message.
The replacement cards will spell out consequences and legal ramifications to both patrons and businesses if false IDs are honored, but later uncovered by authorities.
In addition to the community education and awareness campaign, a campus peer-mentor campaign and various alcohol-free social events are key components of the MSU strategy.
“The ‘Stay Dry’ program doesn’t just caution students against drinking; it provides a fun alternative by getting students involved in alcohol-free events,” Glaze observed.
The alcohol-free events will be held both on campus and in the Starkville community, she said.