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Social Norms Initiative at Siena College

Siena College Social Norms 

Siena College students want to know what’s happening on campus. They want to know what students are doing.

The Social Norms Campaign is designed to give students accurate feedback on the attitudes, behaviors and beliefs of their peers. Research across the county and over many years has shown that college students often misperceived how often and how much their peers drinking. College students (Siena students included) report believing that their peers drink more often and drink greater quantities than students actually report drinking. This misperception may influence student decision making and fuel high risk drinking for some students.

What are Social Norms?

A brief message from H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York:


Siena College Social Norms Poster Fall

Social Norms Campaign

Like many colleges, Siena College is doing research on student behavior and attitudes around alcohol. As a part of the social norms model, Siena is reporting these survey results back to students to show students an accurate picture of alcohol consumption on Siena’s campus. Students are often stunned to find how often they overestimate (misperceived) the frequency and quantity of drinking done by their fellow students.
Survey results communicate what the majority of students actually think and do concerning alcohol consumption (or other behaviors). This reduces the gap between the misperceived norm and the actual norm regarding alcohol use. Reducing this misperception gap can reduce high risk drinking and its negative consequences.

Get the FAQs about Social Norm research


Why Siena College is doing a Social Norms Campaign?

Siena College developed a plan to address alcohol use and abuse in 2005. The Board of Trustees was presented with a report summarizing concerns and providing recommendations to focus on alcohol related issues. This follows the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) 3-in-1 framework ranging from individual interventions to the college population and surrounding community. Select this link to view the 2005 report.


Is it Working?Fall 2008 Social Norm Poster

Yes! The data over a three year period (2006-2008) shows reduction in the misperception and a subsequent reduction in high risk drinking. The survey data has shown a 23% decrease in the number of students consuming five plus alcoholic beverages when they drank and a 6% reduction in the number of students drinking two or more times per week over the past two years (2007-2008). There have also been reductions in the number of students suffering from negative consequences due to alcohol consumption by themselves or their friends. See collected data.  

What Does the Social Norm Campaign Have to do with Drinking?

Because drinking is so commonly associated with college students, the Siena College Social Norms Campaign wanted to paint an accurate picture of what students are doing on campus.
Here are a few things we found :

  • Most students greatly overestimate the frequency and amount of drinking on their campus and college campuses in general.
  • Students’ misperception may conclude that high-risk drinking is the norm, leading them to increase frequency or quantity of consumption.
  • “That is what college students do” misperception causes students to believe they are more accepted by consuming larger amounts of alcohol.

The Social Norms Campaign is just one action Siena College has taken to approach high risk drinking on campus.


Social Norms Spring Poster

Where does Siena College get Information for the Social Norms Campaign?

Siena College gathers information using five different surveys:

  1. Student Health Survey 
  2. CORE Drug and Alcohol Survey
  3. National Survey of Student Engagement
  4. Association of College and University Housing Officers Survey
  5. My Student Body
  6. Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory

Policies for Alcohol and Drug Use on Campus

Siena College has policies for alcohol and drug use on campus. These policies allow Siena to offer a healthy living and learning environment on campus.