Georgetown’s Students Marketing Under Recognized Facts will continue efforts to curb binge drinking on-campus in spite of a recent Harvard study denying the effectiveness of such student-run campaigns.

The study, published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol, calls initiatives like SMURF, which use posters and literature to educate students about the reality of their peers’ drinking, ineffective.

The idea behind the programs, according to SMURF member Tim O’Shaughnessy (COL ’04), is social norming, a process by which students are educated about the reality of their campus social scene through statistics intended to clear up common misconceptions.

The tactics are similar to those used by the anti-tobacco “Truth” campaign which reveals the oft-misunderstood “truths” about tobacco through TV commercials, literature and billboards.

The Harvard study, which looked at 98 schools and measured seven degrees of drinking behavior, concluded that students are consuming just as much at universities with the programs than at those without them. In some cases, it found that students are drinking even more.

Still, members of SMURF said they are optimistic about the program’s effectiveness, citing the Harvard study’s tendency to focus on non-formal social norms programs at schools that lack adequate funding and manpower.

Georgetown’s version of the program, founded last year by Graduate Assistant Derek Inokuchi, is grant-funded, with connections to other outreach campaigns like Health Services and the FRIENDS initiative, according to O’Shaughnessy. Since it began literature distribution in January, feedback has been nothing but positive, he said. Group members also note an increase in student activism and an interest in health awareness and education.

Although the results concluded that the campaigns are ineffective on the whole, some of the nation’s largest universities have seen positive effects of social norms campaigns. At California State University at Chico campaigners cited a drop from 6.8 drinks a week among freshman to 5.8.

Through literature and posters, SMURF hopes to do the same. This week, SMURF plans to put fliers in Red Square. Freshmen will also receive a copy of the Stall Seat Journal, a handout to be later posted on the back of dorm bathroom stalls that offers bathroom entertainment and drinking facts.

Through this sort of education, SMURF hopes students will be less likely to engage in risky behavior. But O’Shaughnessy is quick to warn that they are not anti-drinking. In fact, the group doesn’t tell students not to binge drink, instead encouraging them to make the decision a personal one.

“What we’re trying to promote is safe behavior, personal responsibility and responsible decision making,” he said.

Yet with a little more than a year under its belt, O’Shaughnessy said it is too soon to tell if SMURF is making inroads when it comes to the drinking scene.

Members said they are looking down the road to two years from this fall for a University-sponsored study that will survey students’ drinking habits.

“That’s when we’re hoping to see a bigger change, hopefully with the data behind it,” O’Shaughnessy said.

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