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Across the Nation

By U-Wire
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 14, 1999

Critics question drinking ad's effectiveness

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Despite the work of an alliance of 113 colleges and universities, including Michigan State University, to reduce binge drinking, some people question its chances of success.

"I don't think it would have much of an effect of any kind ... it's just one more commercial against drinking," English sophomore Grace Arnold said.

The colleges and universities, all members of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, along with The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Barnes & Noble Inc., are financing a $600,000 advertising campaign.

A full-page advertisement began appearing Friday in The New York Times and other newspapers.

The ads also are expected to run in other major national and metropolitan newspapers such as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.

The advertisement, featuring a large bottle of "Binge Beer," asks "Who says falling off a balcony is such a bad thing? And what's an occasional riot? Or even a little assault between friends?"

But Charles Atkin, the Department of Communication chairman, said although the ad seems geared toward parents, the style is geared more toward college-aged people.

Instead, he said, the advertisement needs to encourage parents to talk with their children about binge drinking.

"That type of message makes sense to convince (parents) they can make a difference," Atkin said. "That's the type of message they need in subsequent advertisements.

"The intentions are excellent, but the execution needs fine-tuning."

The names of the college and university presidents supporting the campaign- including MSU President M. Peter McPherson-appear at the bottom the advertisement.

McPherson has been involved in other alcohol-related issues affecting universities. In 1998, he formed the MSU Alcohol Action Team after the Munn field riot to reduce student drinking and improve community relations. The team released a report of 33 recommendations in April.

McPherson was unable to be reached for comment Sunday night.

MSU also is working on its own radio and newspaper alcohol awareness campaign, MSU health educator Dennis Martell said.

"The campaign is really focused on not what students should do, but what they do," he said. "Not insulting or condescending-nothing but facts."

Martell emphasized the national campaign is intended to alert parents, not students, about the dangers of binge drinking.

"It's a good first step of alerting parents of the consequences," he said.

Cheryl Fields, spokeswoman for the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, said the campaign is not primarily aimed at college students.

"Putting the ads in the daily newspapers is geared toward the general public," Fields said. "We really needed to reach beyond the campus because many (young people) will soon be college students."

According to a 1997 national study by the Harvard School of Public Health, 43 percent of students reported binge drinking in the previous two weeks. The study defined binge drinking as having five or more drinks in succession for men and four or more drinks for women.

Fields said some students begin binge drinking before they start college. A 1997 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 33 percent of all high school students surveyed had consumed five or more drinks of alcohol on at least one occasion during the previous 30 days.

She said most college students do not binge drink, but "you don't need every student drinking to make it a problem."

But Fields said the campaign is just one step toward addressing binge drinking.

"We're not thinking that one ad on one day will change things around," she said.

Finance junior Brandon Hinkle said a similar campaign during his freshman year was unsuccessful, and students probably won't take this one seriously.

"People hung those in their rooms as a joke," Hinkle said. "They'll probably think it's a beer ad."

Some parents who aren't aware of a binge drinking problem may benefit from the ad, though, he said. He said his parents probably would not have a strong reaction.

"It's not like my mom's gonna call me: 'I saw this article. I don't want you binge drinking,'" he said.

Brown University students describe East Timor after serving as U.N. observers

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - While most people relied on the media for accounts of East Timor's historic vote on independence from Indonesia, Natalie Reid was one of 500-600 international observers in East Timor attempting to ensure that the referendum went smoothly.

Also among the observers were three others from Brown - Mike Bhatia, Jarat Chopra, a research associate for the Watson Institute, and Tonya Langford, also of the Watson Institute.

Reid's interest in East Timor began when she worked as a summer researcher in international relations. Reid's work culminated in her senior thesis, which compared East Timor's problems with those of Western Sahara.

Last summer, Reid filled out an online application to work on the International Federation for East Timor Observer Project (IFET-OP). After being accepted to the program, she went through a training session to receive U.N. accreditation as an observer and then proceeded to the final stages of the instruction.

However, before Reid left, she had to raise enough money to pay for the program and her flight.

"There was a lot of fundraising calling around to people you don't really know," she said.

With the help of the Watson Institute, President Gordon Gee, of the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, the Portuguese community in Providence, and her family, Reid raised enough money to pay for her trip.

Upon arriving in Dili, Indonesia, after 24 hours of traveling, Reid and the other observers rested for a day, then spent a day getting accustomed to the country and receiving their assignments.

Because Reid is not fluent in Portuguese and was inexperienced as an observer, she was placed in the Dili IFET-OP office as an information officer.

As the "clearinghouse for all information flowing in and out in Dili," Reid helped to receive news from observers in the field and wrote up reports and complaints for Indonesian police and the U.N. Assistance Mission in East Timor.

Her duties also included fact verification and talking to journalists.

East Timor has the lowest income per capita and life expectancy of any area of Indonesia, Reid said - so she was not expecting luxurious accommodations.

"People in East Timor are an indigenous society, really living close to the ground," said Dean David Targan, an expert on the situation in East Timor.

IFET-OP housed Reid and 21 other observers in a large house that did not even have a plumbing system.

"If you were in a house that had a pump you were lucky," she said.

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