by Jess Hoogendoorn
“By oft repeating an untruth, men come to believe it themselves.” Dr. Adrienne Keller of the University of Virginia used these words, which Thomas Jefferson wrote years ago, to describe the misconceptions about drinking and college life. Keller spoke as part of a Greek 101 program and forum in observance of Alcohol Awareness Month on Monday in the Bart Luedeke Center Theater.
The forum was one of several events, including a lecture by psychology Professor Stephanie Golski about the effects of alcohol on a developing brain, held this week to kick off the month.
At Monday’s event Keller spoke to Greek students about the misconceptions college students have concerning the prevalence of drinking on campus. A moment of silence was observed in remembrance of Gary DeVercelly Jr., a fellow Greek, at the beginning of the presentation, on the one-year anniversary of his death.
Keller informed students about tactics that are often used to dissuade young people from drinking and how this “health terrorism” approach is rarely effective. She explained that scaring people into making healthy decisions simply does not work because students, with few exceptions, can see others making unhealthy choices without the terrible consequences portrayed in the ads.
“You look around you and see a lot of people using alcohol and abusing alcohol, but nothing bad happens to them,” Keller said. “Fear in ads keeps us in the past. It doesn’t allow us to live in the present moment and figure out the best course of action.”
Keller also addressed the stereotypes that college life entails. She explained that most people think drinking is something college students do and that it is acceptable, even though not everyone at college believes this or acts this way. She said that students live in a world where alcohol use is glamorized and college parties are not seen as being fun unless there is alcohol involved.
“There’s definitely a tendency in movies, in TV, to portray college life as alcohol saturated,” Keller said.
Keller worked on a campaign at the University of Virginia to advise students that not everyone is a heavy drinker and not everyone thinks drinking to get drunk is acceptable. This program is an example of social marketing, and its goal is to inform students about what their peers are really doing in regards to alcohol.
“[It’s] not what our peers are doing, but what we think they’re doing,” she said.
Although Keller tried to shatter stereotypes and misconceptions held by students, some found the presentation lengthy and not very stimulating. Sophomore Justin Scerbo said that he felt the point of this “harm prevention seminar” was to help make it easier for the Greeks to accept the administration’s new policies.
“I like the ideas at the Greek 101s of getting us together,” Scerbo said. “We had others that were fantastic, who talked about breaking stereotypes of frats and sororities, but this one just wasn’t very interesting.”