The university’s focus on the health and safety of students has become so widely promoted that the topic has carried over to the unlikeliest of places: the bathroom stall.
Since 2006, as part of the social norms campaign at Georgetown University, the Stall Seat Journal initiative has increased dialogue about certain health topics students tend to face in college life and beyond.
The Stall Seat Journal is a monthly newsletter placed in a plastic case on the back of bathroom stalls across campus. Each month, a new edition replaces the old, featuring topics and issues relevant to students’ lives, including alcohol safety, healthy eating habits, sleep cycles and study tips to name a few. For example, during the final exam periods in December and May, issues of the Stall Seat Journal typically discuss different ways to relieve stress, recommending seven to eight hours of sleep and promoting nutritious meals conducive to boosting memorization and study capacity.
The Stall Seat Journal is not specific to Georgetown. In 2006, Anheuser-Busch gave grants to 10 universities, including Georgetown, to publish the Stall Seat Journal as part of the social norms campaign. The campaign came to be branded as a more realistic approach to facilitating dialogue regarding college health.
Health Communications Specialist and Social Norms Program Coordinator Laura Marcucci leads the Stall Seat Journal’s spread across campus and monitors its content.
“Social norms theory is a data-driven approach, which uses statistics around health behavior to dispel myths and misperceptions around what students perceive as the ‘norm’ on campus,” Marcucci said. “By using accurate data on Georgetown students and their well-being, we promote awareness and increase education around actual campus norms.”
Despite the circulation of the Stall Seat Journal on other college campuses, Marcucci noted that staff members of Health Education Services at Georgetown are careful to tailor the material to the community, using focus groups and school-specific research to find content most applicable to Hoyas. Most prominently, Georgetown’s National College Health Assessment provides detailed survey results that summarize important topics for Georgetown students especially.
The primary themes that span most of the Stall Seat Journals are those of alcohol risk reduction and the campus drinking culture. A September edition states that 80 percent of students who choose to drink stay with the same group of friends for the entire night and that 60 percent maintain a mental tab of the number of beverages consumed. Well-aware that some of-age students choose to consume alcoholic beverages, the producers of the Stall Seat Journal also include these safety tips and statistics.
For students under 21, the publication promotes local alcohol-free activities, including concerts at the 9:30 Club, U Street Music Hall or Verizon Center, as suggested in the September 2016 issue.
“Because we include information about sensitive health topics, the poster location is ideal, because students can read the information in private,” Marcucci said. “This takes the pressure off a student who may not want to stop and read the content in a hallway or other public location.”
Marcucci also noted that the Stall Seat Journal has become a wide success at Georgetown and at other schools including the University of Kansas, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia.
Currently, the publication appears in over 500 stalls around Georgetown’s campus, including Healy Hall, Yates Field House, Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall and the Student Health Center. Originally, the posters were only featured in student dormitories that had common bathrooms, but their popularity has burgeoned members of Health Education Services to broadcast them further.
“This increases viewership among upperclassmen who may not be living in on-campus housing,” Marcucci said of the expansion.
Also included on the poster are key contacts, such as the Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service and Georgetown University Police Department phone numbers for any students who may need medical attention or additional services.
The Stall Seat Journal is sponsored by and in collaboration with many student-run groups and local businesses, such as GERMS, Georgetown Dining Services, Saxby’s Coffee and Trader Joe’s, as well as other popular on-campus and area groups.
Students have become very fond of the Stall Seat Journal as it keeps expanding across campus, to the extent that some of the readers now participate in the production and development each month. Marcucci said that, when the production schedule is created, she and a student assistant will research, create a draft and individually sketch out a poster. Then, the content is sent to a graphic designer, who creates the Journal at the discretion of Marcucci and her assistants. Four student employees help with the distribution, which takes them approximately three to four days to set up displays around campus.
Marcucci encourages students to browse through past and present Stall Seat Journals and learn effective statistics useful for leading healthy and safe social lives at school.
“We are grateful to the campus community for their partnership,” Marcucci said. “We look forward to providing ongoing and relevant health promotion information this year to help students thrive.”