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Spring Break Illustration

A "Break" From the Norm: Story Ideas About Spring Break

March 2003


About 40 students from Southern Methodist University will forgo the stereotypical beach bashes and ski trips this year to spend Spring Break working with immigrants and refugees, preserving natural resources, helping the homeless and teaching children to read.

Robin Lovin, the Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics, says young people learn important lessons on these trips that they cannot learn in the classroom. Teaching students about their social responsibility is a critical role of higher education, he says.

From March 10-14, SMU students go to Chicago; Denver; Nashville, Tenn.; and Chattanooga, Tenn. More than 5,000 college students across the nation will participate in Alternative Spring Break trips this year.

The following students are available for interviews:

  • Jimmy Tran, student leader on SMU's Nashville trip. Jimmy's family, refugees from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975, was helped by an organization similar to the one he will work with in Nashville during Spring Break. An avid volunteer, he can talk about the importance of helping others.
  • Anna Miller, chair of SMU's Alternative Spring Break committee. Anna can talk about how volunteering teaches values to college students. Anna worked in a soup kitchen in Philadelphia during Spring Break last year.

If peer pressure encourages college students to drink, could it also work the other way? That's the strategy behind the advertising campaign being launched in late February at SMU-- just in time for Spring Break.

Advertisements will soon cover the SMU campus with the message "Welcome to the Majority" to show that drinking responsibly is the norm for most students. The campaign -- created by advertising students for their peers -- is based on a survey that found most SMU students make responsible choices about drinking, but they suspect their peers don't.

The university-wide survey found that 75 percent of students say they average five or fewer drinks when they party (binge drinking is defined as more than five drinks in one sitting). This trend is seen at more than 100 other universities, according to the National Social Norms Research Center.

The survey also found:

  • The majority of SMU students drink once a week or less;
  • Have not missed a class due to drinking;
  • Have not gotten into a fight due to drinking;
  • Never drink and drive;
  • Have never been in trouble with authorities due to drinking.