Jayhawk Buddy System keeps students safe from alcohol-related trauma

Frank DeSalvo stopped by the Lawrence Central Rotary meeting yesterday at the Eldridge Hotel to tell us all about the Jayhawk Buddy System, which takes a positive solution-oriented approach to reducing alcohol-related trauma among KU's 27,000 students.

The Jayhawk Buddy System, which was launched six months ago, is a protective campaign, said DeSalvo, who's KU's associate vice provost of student success. "Nine out of 10 students do okay with alcohol. So the idea is that if you're in a group that's making smart choices, you'll be okay."

When his office was developing the Jayhawk Buddy System, said DeSalvo, the students made it clear that information that tried to scare them or that told them not to drink wouldn't work. Instead, they said, they wanted tools.

So the Jayhawk Buddy System gives them tools that don't make them look silly or prudish by doing the right thing:

  • A way to handle alcohol-fueled arguments by using four different tactics "to get yourself and your friends out of a jam" notes the web site: divert, deflect, diffuse, and de-escalate.
  • A strategy to stay safe for an evening of drinking: Identify a buddy. Stay with each other. Check on each other throughout the evening. And make sure you both get home safely.
  • Use the "safe bus". "We got tons of pushback on this one," said DeSalvo. "The ridership was not huge at the beginning. But it went up 40 percent when we went to apartments. That's because, unlike bars, home parties have no oversight."

They made it fun -- sponsored a flash mob at the recent KU-Mizzou game, shown in this video.

And they delivered the serious with a sense of humor -- here's the poster.

Reminders about the buddy system appear on every flat screen on campus. On Thursdays, the frequency of the messages increases. Ten bars participating in the system ask students when they walk in the door if they have a buddy.

The system's messages are aimed at freshmen and sophomores, said DeSalvo. "When they become juniors and seniors, they start moving away from hard partying."

Taking a solution-oriented, protective approach makes more sense than a punitive tack, said DeSalvo, because alcohol is already a part of most students' lives before they arrive at KU. "Most students have their first drink at 12 years old," he said. "Their tolerance increases because started younger. They can drink enough to get their blood alcohol level to near toxic levels and still remain conscious."

"There's no magic answer" to keeping students safe, said DeSalvo. "You just pull together a lot of solutions and weave a safety net."

Tagged: Alcohol, Jayhawk buddy system


Shardwurm 7 years, 8 months ago

The military has used the buddy system for decades for everything from basic training to combat. Glad to see someone copy it because it works.

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