Student Organized Alcohol Research discontinues surveys after seven years


It's the last year for S.O.A.R. alcohol surveys.
For years, the Student Organized Alcohol Research project (S.O.A.R.) has provided DePauw with information on students' drinking habits in an endeavor to change them. The data has been seen by students, faculty and staff alike.
According to senior member Lian Weinstein, S.O.A.R. is having trouble replacing the students who are leaving.
"A lot of the members are graduating this year," Weinstein said, "so [it's discontinuing] because there's not a lot of interest."
With the aid of faculty adviser Pam Propsom, S.O.A.R. has sent out results of its annual surveys to students in the spring.
Research done by the surveys provides insight as to why DePauw students continue to binge drink.
"The research finds that students are often inaccurate about their peers' attitudes and behaviors, and this might contribute to increased perceived pressure to drink," DePauw's S.O.A.R. information webpage said.
Ridding students of the "it happens to other people but it won't happen to me" mentality by educating them is a key component in decreasing risky or unhealthy drinking habits among the student population.
Among those who have access to S.O.A.R. results for educative purposes are mentors and RAs as well as university faculty and staff. First year students especially hear a lot about alcohol statistics as part of their orientation activities.
Adam Cohen, head coach of men's swimming and diving, works with alcohol training for athletes and has noticed a positive effect of S.O.A.R. on DePauw's campus.
"S.O.A.R.'s done a great job of making people stop and think about how much they need and how much they truly are drinking," Cohen said. "It's doing a great job of raising campus awareness."
A continuing pattern in the surveys was the overestimation of other students' drinking habits. S.O.A.R. hypothesized that misperceptions might have played a role in DePauw's massive party culture by highlighting students' conformity to an ideal: believing a high level of drinking is the norm would cause students to aspire to a similar standard.
It's not just students who are misinformed though. In a recent report presented to the Chicago Midwestern Psychological Association's (MPA) annual meeting in 2012, 248 DePauw faculty and staff members were surveyed about students' drinking habits. In survey results, many of them overestimated factors such as the "'liberalness' of student drinking attitudes" and "the number of times students 'partied' per week." Also of note were the facts that greek caucasian males and varsity athletes drink more than their counterparts.
Besides this, the problem isn't being solved. Students aren't changing their drinking habits, Weinstein said, although their estimates are becoming more accurate after years of surveys. Conducting the surveys and sharing the results provided a way to better understand DePauw's drinking problem and take the right measures to solve it.