Cups for Campus, a new program initiated by School of Nursing and Health Studies students, is a program that, if initiated, would provide free cups and health education to students in order to prevent the spread of diseases at campus parties.
The group is currently fundraising and looking for partners, working with the university’s Health Education Services which has provided them with guidance and advice. According to co-founder Rachel Skonecki (NHS ’17), the group must raise $6,000 to begin its services, which will allow it to provide marketing, educational health pamphlets and 6,000 cups a month for an entire school year.
Cups for Campus tested its service in November with a pilot program. The group handed out cups at the Hoya Health Hut in Red Square with monetary support from Health Education Services.
“It was very successful,” Graduate Assistant and Health Educator at HES Victoria Somerville wrote in an email. “We loved the idea of illness prevention, but we are unable to take the project on under our department until the group finds additional co-sponsors.”
The idea for Cups for Campus originated as an assignment in the class Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, which had inspired ideas for other campus initiatives, such as SafeRides, the Georgetown University Farmers Market and Grab ‘n’ Go, according to Cups for Campus co-founder Greg Jarvis (NHS ’17).
The concept for Cups for Campus arose in part because of the death of Andrea Jaime (NHS ’17) due to bacterial meningitis in September, according to co-founder Chantal Durgana (NHS ’17).
“When [Jaime] passed away, I think it affected a lot of us,” Durgana said. “Things like meningitis are so easily preventable and it just sucks that these things are so fatal.”
According to Skonecki, students became more careful with their cup sharing practices for only a short time after Jaime’s death.
“After Andrea died, [students] were really aware,” Skonecki said. “They were trying to do Sharpies on cups and not share but after a week or two people just moved on. That served as a really unfortunate and powerful teaching moment but students still think that they are invincible.”
If Cups for Campus receives sufficient funding, they intend to set up a walk-in service where, at designated hours, students can pick up cups and informational pamphlets about the dangers of sharing cups.
“We’re trying to create this system that has the least amount of barriers possible,” Durgana said. “So the way that we’ve been working on it is that these students can literally just walk through the door, ask for a set of cups, take them home, and they can do with them what they please.”
The cups will come with an informational packet that explains the dangers of sharing cups, which include putting sharers at risk of contracting diseases and viruses such as mononucleosis, strep throat and influenza.
“When you do get a stack of cups, we’ll provide you with an information packet,” Skonecki said, “We’ll get you in the door [by] promising free cups, but then we’ll give you information to try to change your habits.”
Although their service is to provide free cups, the leaders are also trying to confront the larger issue of awareness by focusing on education.
“We’re trying to make college students aware that they are susceptible to this disease and then empower them and give them the tools to have this effect on their health status stop,” co-founder Devin Holmes (NHS ’17) said.
Cups for Campus members said that many drinking activities students participate in, particularly beer pong, cause the spread of germs and disease. Holmes was convinced to help found the group after seeing a simulation game of beer pong set up by George Washington University students.
“They had eight players play for an hour and played six rounds and they swabbed the cups after,” Holmes said. “There was E. coli and strep. It was disgusting.”
According to Holmes, students often forego healthy practices to avoid purchasing more plastic cups, which cost 14.3 cents per 18 oz cup at Vital Vittles and 15.9 cents per 18 oz cup at Wisemiller’s Grocery and Deli on 36th Street. Because of their relatively high cost, Holmes said that students believe that lightly washing the cups and sharing them will be most efficient.
“They’re expensive,” Holmes said.“A pack of 50 is seven or eight bucks without tax. And [students say], ‘Alright, I’ll buy one pack and we’ll just reuse them and rinse them out.”
Rachel Smith (COL ’18) said that she thinks that the program could prevent students from getting sick.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Smith said. “I got mono this September. It was not fun at all, and I think it was from sharing cups. I think it’s probably a problem that happens at all schools. I think it’s something that’s bound to happen.”
Jessica Uy (SFS ’16) said that increasing the number of cups at events may not stop students from sharing, which has become a habit at parties.
“At parties, obviously people aren’t paying attention to that kind of stuff, especially when that’s probably your [lowest] priority at that point,” Uy said. “Obviously, I think it would improve a little awareness or education on the issue, but I’m just not sure of how much would change in actuality.”