SCOPE Thought Piece, Question #6: How do we improve our ability to create and reinforce consistent messaging across campuses and schools?

Brett A. Sokolow, Esq.

With programming and prevention efforts originating from many different sources on college campuses, one of the challenges is that many philosophies may be in play, may conflict and may dilute the message of other efforts. If you mix scare tactics with normative messaging, do you get prevention or confusion? To be proactive on high-risk health and safety issues, college prevention efforts need to get “on message” and stay “on message” with a coordinated, consistent philosophy of prevention.  Educating students on these issues is hard enough without diluting the message or being philosophically scattershot with our educational approach.  When we can demonstrate effective programs, we then need to sell those programs up, until the president and trustees want to brandish them as a source of pride and accomplishment, a tool of recruitment and a selling point to parents, donors and the community.

Lay out your four-year plan, semester-by-semester.  Using the example of sexual violence, make sure to discuss how each peer theater program, condom-distribution campaign, poster, Clothesline Project, ribbon event, Take Back the Night, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, Slut Walk, speaker, Sexual Assault Awareness Week (or Month) activity will fit into the overall primary prevention objectives you have outlined, and are not just raising awareness. Is a one-shot speaker effective? Do awareness weeks or months allow the campus to cop out for the other 11 months or 51 weeks that the issue is not being spotlighted?  To maximize effectiveness, tie your issue-based strategizes together to encompass collateral programming. If sexual violence issues come up at an alcohol program, are we mutually reinforcing the strategic message?  Are dating doctors and healthy sexuality lecturers who may be invited to campus going to reinforce a good message of sexual respect, or may they undermine your efforts by a casual, cynical or diminishing tone?

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