TCU kicks of spring break with Vitals

It’s spring break time. And students at Texas Christian University are ready to play some beer pong and flip cup—both, drinking games—on campus.

But instead of alcohol, virgin margaritas will be on the table and students will have a chance to play flip cup and beer pong with root beer.

The “Thirsty Thursday” event is one of the pre-spring break events organized by “TCU VITALS,” a campaign team addressing the issue of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning, highly prevalent during this time of the year.

TCU “VITALS” is a year-long student campaign developed by students in the Schieffer School of Journalism. The campaign is a collaborative effort of Schieffer faculty and students.

The school received a $50,000 grant from The Century Council in 2011 to execute this campaign. “VITALS” is the product of TCU’s 2009 campaign submitted by advertising students to the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) sponsored by the American Advertising Federation.

“At TCU, we decided that we would not take the conventional approach and ask students to stop drinking,” says Amiso George, associate professor of strategic communication, who provides guidance to “TCU VITALS.”

“Instead, we developed a campaign to educate them to recognize the symptoms of alcohol poisoning and get help.”

A formative research by VITALS also shows that 33 percent of TCU students reported they or their friends have experienced alcohol poisoning.

Allison Branca, a strategic communication major and one of the chief executive officers of the campaign, says “TCU VITALS” has helped to recognize the fact that her peers don’t pay attention to most signs of alcohol poisoning.

“This insight has forced us to get creative,” Branca said.

“Personally, the VITALS campaign has been a large wake-up. I have found myself to be a lot more cautious when I approach drinking scenarios. I have also made a bigger effort to look out for others.”

While students are raising awareness in their campus community, Texas Young Lawyers Association is taking up a stand against binge drinking and alcohol poisoning too. TYLA, which is collaborating with TCU VITALS, is a pro-bono arm of the Texas Bar Association.

“The Unconscious Truth,” a multimedia project, is an effort to educate parents and students on the signs of alcohol poisoning as well as the legal and physical consequences that tag along with alcohol.

Brooke Allen, a member of TYLA’s board of directors, says both campaigns helps to identify the risks and debunk the myths associated with alcohol poisoning. She points that some of the myths like “sleeping it off” can lead to death and “taking a shower to sober up” could result in shock, coma and even death.

“These are issues that were not discussed when I was in college and I have learned about the myths also,” Allen, also an attorney, said. “The awareness will save lives and has already [saved lives].”

A January 2012 report by Centers for Disease Control on binge drinking estimates that more than 38 million Americans binge drink regularly. Drinking too much, including binge drinking, cause 80,000 deaths in the US.

The report identifies 18 to 34 year olds as the group with most binge drinkers.

While alcohol has become a major part of socializing and also an integral part of student life, which cannot be ignored, campaigns like TCU VITALS and The Unconscious Truth are working with students and for students and the greater community.

As George puts in, “VITALS is a health campaign developed by students for students. While I teach the campaign as a class, students develop the strategies and tactics with some guidance for their fellow students.”

Published in the Huffington Post

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