Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013
For nearly a decade, The Stall Seat Journal has provided the inside scoop on health and wellness to VCU students, covering topics as varied as the significance of liver health, ways to handle stress, the length of time it takes for alcohol to leave the body and the importance of getting enough vitamin D.
The monthly journal blends timely information and graphics to appeal to student readers.
“The voice of The Stall Seat Journal is a student voice. We cover a range of topics that are important to college students,” said Linda Hancock, Ph.D., director of the Wellness Resource Center.
Hancock and Amanda McGann, health educator of the Wellness Resource Center, help to keep each issue on track.
“Each edition is meant to include timely issues that affect VCU and to educate readers about the ‘healthy majority’ of students at VCU,” McGann said.
The journals are hard to miss. Every month, more than 1,200 are hung in holders above urinals and on the backs of stall doors in bathrooms across both campuses. And thus the journal’s monthly themes reach a captive audience of VCU students, faculty and staff with a few minutes of free time.
“We’ve gotten feedback that when students return to a restroom they’ll pick right back up on reading an article from where they left off,” Hancock said.
In an era when newspaper and magazine readership has declined, particularly among young people, the bathroom-based journal remains popular. A 2012 survey of the journal’s reach and readership found that 90 percent of the VCU students surveyed were aware of the journal and nearly 87 percent of those surveyed typically read the issues.
“We tend to focus on the positive,” Hancock said. “We don’t skew the news, we tell the truth. And the truth is good.”
The journal was originally launched as a poster through a grant by the National Social Norms Institute to reduce misperceptions about alcohol use on campus. But organizers decided on the current format after realizing that hallway posters were quickly covered or torn down.
That’s not to say The Stall Seat Journal displays aren’t free from vandalism but Hancock said they are rarely defaced and when a holder is damaged, it is repaired quickly once the damage is reported.
The conversation about content in any given month’s journal begins well in advance of publication. On the first week of every month, a draft is completed for the next month’s edition.
Four or five rounds of editing take place and the team’s graphics designer goes to work. Every issue also undergoes a student review. The theme for each issue, which consists of about 600 words of copy, is decided by four student members of the “Social Norms Think Tank.” A social media intern and a graphics designer also are part of the process. Every issue undergoes a student review and students frequently write lead articles.
A series of special editions geared for freshmen also are published and changed out weekly at the start of the school year.
Distribution of the journal is completed by four students, who post all of the existing copies in two days.
“We couldn’t do it without the students,” Hancock said.
In the early days, the journal was met with curiosity, amusement and, even in a few cases, opposition.
“But once everyone understood what it was, there was a tipping point where people wanted us to put them in their buildings,” McGann said.
The journal’s staff is always looking to collaborate with other VCU groups on articles that are important to readers. Recent editions have included items from the VCU Police Department and the VCU Office of Sustainability.
The articles and graphics are put together in such a way that students and others look forward to the next issue.
“We want to include one ‘aha’ and one ‘ha-ha’ in each issue,” Hancock said.
Check out the latest issue of The Stall Seat Journal at http://www.thewell.vcu.edu/.
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