By Paula Dallacqua, Staff Writer

Emily Katz ’14 knows how to set the mood. Her even demeanor coupled with Little Caesars pizza and Rock & Rye pop make me feel like I am having a casual conversation with friends over dinner, rather than attending a meeting on alcohol.

Katz understands that offering a space for people to reflect is essential for her start-up group, Students Helping Others Choose Knowledgeably (SHOCK). SHOCK is a peer support group for alcohol education, but Katz makes it clear that “we do not condemn alcohol in any way.”

The idea for SHOCK originated from Katz’s Senior Individualized Project research, where she studied different peer support models for alcohol-related issues. In her research, Katz found that peer support is the most efficient and meaningful approach towards the intervention and curbing of drinking on campus. Generally, peer-to-peer groups are more relatable than the superior-to-subordinate model in which we typically receive alcohol education.

By eliminating the power dynamic that authority figures can present, peer-to-peer groups decrease the potential elements of condescension and shame, and increase the opportunity for highly impactful dialogue.

Watching people run away from her table at K Fest, Katz realized that alcohol education is deeply stigmatized. She thinks the fear is rooted in the traditional model of “Do not drink or you will die” (akin to the logic in Mean Girls, ‘Don’t have sex because you will get pregnant. And die.’).

Unfortunately, the harshness of the message seems to perpetuate a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, causing most students to feel like since they’re already expected to drink, then why not do it anyway?

SHOCK meetings consciously aim to provide a more laidback environment so that a campus-wide dialogue on alcohol may be started, rather than “just meeting in the caf on Sunday morning,” Katz says.

Not yet recognized as a student organization, Katz is currently paying for everything out of pocket. That doesn’t stop her from providing the necessary amenities for a comfortable atmosphere though. She says, “You couldn’t dream of more pizza.”

In order to get administrative support, Katz needs to demonstrate the effectiveness of SHOCK. More student participation means more data, which means more credibility. If anything, SHOCK is also “a resource that’s available to everybody. It’s a light-hearted place to talk to people,” explains Katz.

Throughout the fall quarter, SHOCK will meet every Wednesday of even weeks at 6 p.m. in the fourth-floor Psychology Lounge of Olds Upton. Katz plans to continue SHOCK into the winter and spring, as well.