Thinking About Drinking Habits
Comparing Personal Habits, Perceptions, and Social Norms

Life as a college student is filled with many opportunities, both good and not so good. For most students at a residential college it is their first experience with an extended time away from their parents and family. This generally translates into a time to make new friends and to experience freedom to make choices and to act on them. One of those choices is, inevitably, a choice about alcohol consumption. Public perception is that college students spend more time drinking than studying. Drinking is usually associated with fraternities and sororities. A view reinforced by popular movies and television shows about college life. Gettysburg College has a long history of working to help students make sensible choices about the use of alcohol. Counseling Services and The College Life Division of the Office Of The Dean Of Students have been key players in this effort. More recently, Andrew Barclay ’05, Director of Greek Organization in the College Life Division has been concerned with helping students in greek organizations, fraternities and sororities, understand their drinking habits and those of the organization to which they belong.

Andrew majored in both Psychology and Philosopy. Recently he has been reading national research in Group Motivational Enhancement. His background enabled him to see an opportunity to develop a program for members of greek organizations to help them make informed choices about their consumption of alcohol. The basis of the program is to look at the effectiveness of the bystander behavior effect to realign individual perceptions of drinking habits. What this means is that questions are asked in pairs, i. e., “How many drinks do you think the members of this organization had on their last drinking occasion?” followed by; “How many drinks did you have during your last drinking occasion?” In general, most students over estimate what the norm is for their organization. Seeing the cumulative group answers to these questions provides individuals with an opportunity to compare their use of alcohol with the actual practices of the entire membership. It also shows them how their perceptions stack up against the actual facts. This strategy is most effective if (1) the entire membership participates, (2) the feedback is immediate, and (3) participants can answer anonymously. These are seemingly impossible conditions to fulfill simultaneously. However, Andrew realized that IT has a solution to this conundrum.

The solution is to use a technology that is used in some classes on campus to do student polling. It is called a “clicker”. The clicker can be used to answer yes/no, Leichardt Scale, or multiple choice questions. The responses from all of the clickers are collected through the USB port of a computer showing a PowerPoint presentation that poses the questions to the group. After asking the question, the presenter pauses for a short time allowing the members time to record their answers. The presenter then moves to the next slide similar to the one shown below that displays the group’s cumulative answers immediately. In this way each individual can compare their response to those of the rest of the group while their response is fresh in their mind.

The beauty in using the clicker is that the each member’s answer is private and anonymous. Even though sitting in a room with the entire membership, it is not possible to know how anyone else has voted. This generally means that each individual will tend to answer honestly. NOTE: The above display is simply a place holder showing the graph before anyone responded. Of course, 0 is 20% of 0.

Andrew stresses that no individual data are saved and the data from each group is melded with the data from the other groups (fraternities and sororities are grouped separately). To further preserve the anonymous nature of the data, the presentations to each organization are conducted by members of the Counseling Office, not the Office For Greek Organizations. The Counseling Office also processes the data before releasing it to the organizations and the Office for Greek Organizations.

Follow up surveys have shown that the greek organization members believe that the program is having a good effect and that it is a good use of their time. They especially appreciate the fact that the program is informative, but not prescriptive. The plans are that the program will be given each fall term after the organizations have obtained their new pledge class.

Getting to Know John Baker

Since May 1998 when he joined the Management Information Systems (MIS) Department of IT, John Baker has been a Programmer/Analyst working with BSR data system. There have been many changes in the organization of the IT Departments. MIS has evolved into the Data Systems Department with an expanded mission. BSR has become SunGard Higher Education Systems after several transitions. John, on the other hand has continued lending his expertise to the Advancement Systems Department of the Office of Development, Alumni, and Parent Relations maintaining and developing the Donor Relations Database. He works closely with the office’s functional analyst, Ann Cherry, Director, Advancement Systems.

Beginnings: John was born 44 years ago this month in Wilmington, Delaware. He lived there until he was 10 years old when his family moved near Pittsburgh. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Writing from Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA and his Master’s in Computer Science from Shippensburg University.

Lives: John and his wife, Denise, live with their two children, Kierstin, age 13, and Jaden, age 10, near Waynesboro.

Children: Both Kierstin and Jaden are participating in Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School. Kierstin is also interested in alpacas and has been volunteering one evening a week at an alpaca farm near Greencastle. She has recently shown an alpaca which was judged not only on the appearance of the animal, but also how the animal responded to the handler while being guided through an obstacle course. Jaden enjoys taking Tae Kwon Do lessons and recently earned his green belt.

Recreation: John and his family enjoy camping in their camp trailer. As a matter of fact he and his family were on a camping trip to Cowen’s Gap State Park over the weekend of October 28. They awoke Saturday morning to the heavy, wet snowstorm that struck our area. Wisdom prevailing, they left for home, leaving their camper to be picked up on Sunday when the roads were clear and the snow had begun melting.

Sports: John enjoys participating in sports more than being a spectator. He enjoys playing volleyball and running. On October 1st, he ran his first half marathon in Lancaster sponsored by the Hands-on-House Children’s Museum. He had a respectable time of 1:54.

Volunteer Work: John has done some interesting things as a volunteer with church sponsored groups. While in college, he went to Haiti where he assisted in building projects and also worked with children in a village. He found the upbeat spirit of the Haitians very uplifting. After hurricane Katrina he went with a church group to the Gulf Coast to assist with the recovery effort. He is an active member of the Five Forks Brethren in Christ Church in Waynesboro. He is the web master for the church and also manages its CMS.

Reading: John likes to visit book sales. He gravitates towards the fiction section. Two of his favorite authors are Tom Clancy and Dean Koontz.

Music: John enjoys a variety of music styles; however, his main preferences currently are various genres of electronic dance music, ranging from ambient sounds to the driving beat of modern club style music. For several years, John was the music review editor for an electronic dance music web site. As such he handled the assignment to reviewers of various releases and edited and published the reviews on the site.

Creating an Attractive & Consistent Web Presence

Branding is an important ingredient for the public image of any institution; college, university, or corporation. Hence, it plays a major role in the success of that institution. Innumerable times the first experience that a person has with the institution is through use of the web. Thus, the web pages that are presented on the internet, its web presence, need to be both attractive and immediately identifiable as belonging to that institution. Maintaining this web presence for Gettysburg College is the responsibility of the Web Presence Committee. In addition, the use of the college’s web pages needs to be intuitive, easy, and sensible. In general, the Gettysburg Web Site meets these requirements. One inconsistency has been in the scheduling of events, venues for the events, and the college calendar. The scheduling of events and their venues is currently being done using a very useful and powerful tool, R25 developed by CollegeNET. On the other hand, the college schedule, while distinct from R25 is, obviously, dependent upon the information in that system. Three people mainly responsible for the use of R25 and the college schedule are Lisa Becker, IT Programmer/Analyst for Ancillary Systems, Sue Plank, Assistant Director of College Life Technology, and Cathy Zarrella, Scheduling Coordinator, College Life Office. When the Web Presence Committee requested that event scheduling and the college schedule, be brought more in line with the existing college web presence, i.e. be made more attractive and useable, a decision was made to update R25 to CollegeNET’s new product, 25Live . It was natural that Lisa, Sue, and Cathy be given the charge to perform this update. They have been working on the project since September of 2011 and are now in the alpha testing phase of the project.

The most noticeable difference in using the new 25Live is that it is web based. When a user logs in to reserve a room, a web page will appear that has a distinctively Gettysburg College feel. The new page will be more intuitive to use. Users will be able to search for a venue for their event by a variety of categories. The criteria include: desired date and time, desired building, desired room size, desired facilities in the room, or a combination of these categories. No longer will the user have to guess at a date and room. If the desired room is not available, the user is informed of this fact and will be presented with a list of rooms that are available at the desired time that have characteristics similar to those that were specified in the original request. For example, if someone were to request Pennsylvania Hall Room 2A at a time when it is unavailable, the system may suggest the requester consider Room 2B, a similarly equipped room in Glatfelter or McCreary, or, maybe even, CUB 260. Only rooms that are available at the requested time and have similar features are suggested. Of course, after a request is made, it will need to be checked and approved by Cathy or other schedulers. The requestor will be notified about the status of the request in a timely fashion.

Another feature of the 25Live update is that the College Calendar will have a much greater presence while still keeping all of the features of the present R25 system. It will be available from the college’s home page. All of the college events will listed in the College Calendar. Users can select events that they wish to attend and copy them to their personal calendar. They can also request that they receive timely notifications of events that they wish to attend or a notification can be sent to their Outlook Calendar. The key is that the calendar will be a more useful tool. It will have a format that is easier to read, be more useful, and be more intuitive to use. For example, if the user is interested in concerts being given on campus, it is possible to search the calendar on the keyword  “concert.” If another user wants to know what public presentations are being given in the History Department, the search keyword would be “history.”

Lisa, Cathy, and Sue’s project will be an ongoing process of upgrading the applications of 25Live to the college web presence. The roll outs will be done in phases. Phase 1 will include the new web functionality of the system and the new calendar. All of the functionality of the R25 system will be available. It is expected that Phase 1 will be available during the first quarter of 2012.

Building Connections Across Campus