The Jayhawk Buddy System is a social norms and protective behavior campaign to reduce the use and misuse of alcohol by KU students. It offers tips and tools for what students should be doing to stay safe whether they choose to drink alcohol or not.
This campaign was designed by a JOUR 640 Strategic Campaigns class in the School of Journalism in Spring 2010. Students in the class spent months researching protective behaviors, assessing KU-specific data and reviewing programs from other institutions across the nation. The Jayhawk Buddy System resulted from their efforts and was implemented in Fall 2010. Originally managed by Student Affairs, the Jayhawk Buddy System was turned over to the Health Education Resource Office in 2015.
Grant funding has sustained the program over the last decade. The initial grant was secured from Anheuser-Busch through a partnership with the National Social Norms Institute (housed at the University of Virginia 2006-2016) later renamed the National Social Norms Center (housed at Michigan State University 2016-present). The University of Kansas was fortunate to be one of just ten schools selected to receive this renewable grant. Additional grant funds secured from MillerCoors/ International Town & Gown Association help support ongoing initiatives. Thanks to a product partnership in 2022 between KU Athletics and local distillery, J. Rieger & Co, we were fortunate to receive a portion of sales from a limited edition Rock Chalk Rye Whiskey.
A key component of the campaign is the use of social norms - standards of proper or acceptable behavior. “Social Norms” is a theory and evidence-based approach to addressing various health issues. Social norms theory describes situations in which individuals incorrectly perceive the attitudes and/or behaviors of peers. Incorporating social norms allows KU students to have accurate information about the behaviors of their peers.
Protective behaviors are what students should be doing to stay safe! The vast majority of KU students make good choices while out with friends but the intent of the campaign is to provide non-judgmental, practical, proactive action steps to empower them in their decisions.
Celebrating 10 Years
In fall 2020, the Jayhawk Buddy System celebrated ten years on campus! By growing the campaign over the past decade, the Jayhawk Buddy System logo and related safety messages are highly visible throughout campus and the Lawrence community today.
In 2021, the Jayhawk Buddy System was featured in Kansas Alumni magazine.
Building upon our solid foundation, the Jayhawk Buddy System will continue to follow guidance from the National Social Norms Center on appropriate messaging and use of grant funds, continue collecting data on behaviors and attitudes to ensure we are meeting students where they are and strive for more infiltration into the community.