BLOOMINGTON — Students at Illinois Wesleyan University reached out to their classmates this week, trying to dispel myths and misinformation about alcohol use.
“This allows us to connect with people our age,” said senior Victoria Bauer of Students Organizing Campus Awareness. “They trust us more.”
Bob Rogers, the group's adviser, agrees.
Rogers, a member of IWU's Counseling and Consultation Services staff, said when the professional staff is present, “it's hard to engage students because they think it's going to be a lecture.”
Instead, the students mix fun with information.
Students could put on a pair of “beer goggles” to simulate the blurred vision and lost coordination that can accompany intoxication. They also could get free cups with alcohol facts on them.
The effort is student-driven, literally. For the second year, members of SOCA drove a golf cart around campus — decorated with empty beer cans to grab attention — offering rides to class or campus residence halls and handing out candy to those who could correctly answer “trivia” questions concerning alcohol.
One common misconception is what portion size constitutes a “drink,” said junior Alyssa Berry, a nursing major from Wheaton. “That's what trips people up the most,” she said.
To educate students, SOCA had liquor bottles filled with what appeared to be vodka or gin — it was actually water — at their display table in the Memorial Center on Wednesday and Thursday.
Students were asked to pour an amount of alcohol into a red Solo cup that they thought equaled a drink of hard liquor or table wine. The water was then poured into a shot glass or wine glass to show how many drinks it actually equaled.
While some students hit the mark fairly closely, others were way off, especially with hard liquor, according to Bauer, a French major from St. Charles.
Most didn't realize, for example, that a small line near the bottom of the cup equaled a 1.5 ounce shot of hard liquor.
“That was a big eye opener for a lot of students,” Berry said.
Tapping into the universal attraction of candy, especially around Halloween, SOCA members attached alcohol facts to trick-or-treat size goodies.
Some messages were blunt: “If someone passes out and will not respond to attempts to wake them up, they may have alcohol poisoning. Call 911!”
Berry said, “People are afraid to call 911,” especially if underage drinking is involved.
But Bauer said, “I'd rather have a drinking ticket than have my friend die because I didn't call 911."
Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter: @pg_sobota