PSU residential halls strive to make life more interesting
How interesting does an event about alcohol safety sound? Well, what if you were told it would involve making seasonal desserts? On Oct. 25, a large group of campus housing residents gathered in the Ondine Lobby awaiting caramel apples.
After dipping their apples into a vat of caramel and enjoying the delicious treat, the students were then able to enjoy a piece of candy—if they managed to walk along a line of post-it-notes on the ground while wearing goggles that distorted their vision and made them lose their balance. The goggles simulated the effects of drunkenness. The activity was meant to show the students the disorienting feeling of what it is like to be drunk.
The main reason that the students attended, however, was the promise of caramel apples. They had all seen the posters advertising caramel apples, with “learn about alcohol safety” as a side note, and took part in the alcohol safety activity as a consequence of being there for the apples. The presentation of alcohol safety through an unrelated larger event proved to be much more effective than merely hosting an event related to alcohol safety.
In the same week, campus housing residents decorated oven mitts and were presented with fire safety information. Upon being given an oven mitt and the markers to decorate it, students were given a sheet with multiple-choice questions, which they answered then returned to the Residence Hall Association member running the event.
The RHA member then looked over the results and informed the students of the correct answers to the questions. Though fire safety and oven mitts are more related to each other than alcohol safety and caramel apples, the RHA once again presented an important lesson through the use of a fun main event.
“If they were related, no one would go,” said one RHA member. The consensus among the members of the Residence Hall Association is that it really helps to have a fun event planned during which they can tell students about safety issues.
RHA Vice President Shelby Haskell remarked that these events are particularly useful to the underage students, because the social experience shows them indirectly that they do not need to drink in order to have fun.
Both resident assistants and the RHA put on events to educate their residents, but the audiences of these two groups differ. Whereas an RA reaches out to members of the residence hall community, the RHA strives to reach a wider audience. RHA events, unlike those put on by an RA, are as much for non-housing students as they are for residents.
For every event that they host, the RHA is required to publicize the event all over campus. Both residents and non-residents are much more likely to show up to an event advertising the decoration of oven mitts than to an event for which the posters advertise fire safety. Students who do not live in residence halls would be unlikely to show up at a fire safety event at all if free food or a creative and fun project were not advertised as the main event.
As the oil fire in the Broadway residence hall on Oct. 18 has shown us, basic fire safety is essential. Many students would likely not know that an oil fire is not put out if water is poured onto it but in fact spreads.
The students who decorated oven mitts in Ondine Lobby both this year and last year, however, were able to learn about this. And the students who learned about alcohol safety when eating their caramel apples were shown that alcohol is often a cause of fires.
Through the creative use of food and projects, the RHA has been able to inform students about important safety issues. This has proven to be far more effective and informative than the strict enforcement of the RHA policy. The students are given a chance to understand why rules are in effect instead of simply being told what they are. As an added bonus, the events are also much more interesting.
There are more students turning up at the RHA-hosted events than there would be if the events revolved entirely around the safety issue that they were meant to address. Creativity helps all situations, and the members of the RHA are, thankfully, very creative in their event planning.
All students should attend more of the RHA hosted events, whether they live on campus or not.