MSU gets $262K to combat risky campus behavior

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

When college students have been surveyed about how many sexual partners they think the average student on a college campus have during the school year, many assumed anywhere from two to 10 partners.

But the truth is 75 percent of students are either in a monogamous relationship or have no partners at all, said Dennis Martell, director of health promotion at Michigan State University.

“Those are the misperceptions that exist,” said Martell. “By disseminating the accurate information, it allows students to know what the norm is and that will allow them to make healthier decisions about their behavior.”

MSU will be the headquarters of an institute that oversees efforts aimed at changing campus behaviors and misperceptions related to sex and other issues, including alcohol and drug use. Officials hope after students are surveyed about their perceptions and receive accurate information, they will feel less pressure to conform to untrue norms, Martell said.

“If the perceptions change, the actions change,” said Martell, who will be the center’s executive director.

To be known as the National Social Norms Center, it will work with 10 other colleges across the country that also offer social norms programming. The Anheuser-Busch Foundation is awarding MSU $262,000 in startup funding.

“As the leading American brewer, we’re committed to promoting the responsible enjoyment of our products,” said Katja Zastrow, an Anheuser-Busch vice president. “Our vision is to foster a culture of smart drinking globally to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.”

MSU has worked in this field for 15 years and has evidence it has reduced risky behaviors by using this method, school officials say.