Meeting monthly, participants share information about resources and programming, evaluate the success of campus efforts, review protocols and chart new courses of action. For six years, the Task Force has been the mechanism through which information about the various campus efforts to address alcohol and other drug issues is discussed. The result of this ongoing collaboration and coordination is a comprehensive approach that is both constant and ever-evolving.
Penn's efforts reflect a growing national concern about alcohol and drug use on college campuses. Recently, Penn's Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force was cited in Promising Practices: Campus Alcohol Strategies Sourcebook (1996) by the Center for the Advancement of Public Health as an exemplary program structured to reduce alcohol abuse and its consequences on college campuses.
In April, 1993, the Task Force in its interim report cited a 1990 Carnegie Foundation survey, which acknowledged alcohol abuse as the campus life issue of college presidents' greatest concern. More recently, according to Alcohol and Drugs on American College Campuses--A Report to College Presidents (1996), there is a clear relationship between alcohol use and GPA. The report states that, "More frequent involvement with alcohol is accompanied by lower GPA's." In addition, the report indicates that other consequences of alcohol abuse disrupt the educational process, and the quality of campus life. These behaviors are shown to have a significant impact on retention, academic failure, dormitory damage, sexual assault and the use of health care facilities.
In late 1994, results of the Harvard University School of Public Health Study, "Health and Behavioral Consequences of Binge Drinking in College," confirmed the correlation between alcohol use and coerced or unwanted sexual activity and other types of violent behaviors. The study was also able to determine the extent to which the non-user or occasional user (51%) felt that his or her safety, health and quality of life were compromised by the binge drinking of others (49%).
In 1995, 1283 Penn students participated in the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP), which surveys entering first year students. 66.2% acknowledged that they drank beer and 68.3% acknowledged that they drank either wine or liquor. 7.09% indicated that they smoked cigarettes. Given this level of experience that our entering first year students have disclosed, it is apparent that solutions to reduce alcohol and other drug abuse on campus will continue to be a significant challenge.
In responding to this continuing challenge, the Task Force has been actively engaged, and a summary of these efforts since 1993 is described in section II of this report. Section III highlights current initiatives, and Section IV outlines future needs.
In the Task Force's 1993 Interim Report, we acknowledged the establishment of work groups to coordinate policy revision and educational efforts. These groups were responsible for two major improvements and two significant recommendations.
The major improvements included the development of event planning guidelines, which delineate protocols for campus events involving the serving of alcoholic beverages. The establishment of Class Boards provides for social programming to enhance a sense of class spirit, unity and pride for freshmen, sophomores and juniors. These class boards provide alternatives to alcohol-related activities, and give all undergraduates an opportunity to experience leadership roles. The class boards continue to provide creative social options for their respective groups.
One of the recommendations in the 1993 report included the development of a centralized system for collecting data regarding alcohol and drug-related incidents. This data collection system would provide for uniform and consistent responses, and accurate assessments of the problem and progress being made. In October, 1996, a pilot data collection program was initiated under the auspices of the Vice Provost for University Life. An overview of this program is presented in Section III of this report.
The other significant recommendation proposed in the 1993 Task Force Report was the development of a monitoring system, which would encourage a shared responsibility for the monitoring of campus activities involving alcohol. Late in 1996, the InterFraternity Council introduced a process for monitoring Greek social events. A more detailed outline of this program is described in Section III of this report.
Data Collection Program: A subcommittee of the Task Force developed a reporting form (available on request) designed to collect needs assessment data on the use and abuse of alcohol and other substances on campus. The confidential and anonymous form was then reviewed with various campus groups with the intention of making the form easy to use and relevant to the mission of the Task Force. This pilot program began on October 1, 1996. Ten training sessions were conducted during the 1996 Fall semester. Participants from the following departments were instructed on when and how to best use the form: Athletics, Academic Support Services, Advisors from the College, Nursing and Wharton Schools, Counseling and Psychological Services, Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, Housing and Residence Life, Public Safety, Office of Student Conduct, Student Health Services. VPUL is the central data-keeping agent for these forms. Centralizing this information is crucial to the efficient use of resources by staff and students and to the goal of furthering the work of the Task Force in advising Penn administration about additional resources or policies needed.
Monitoring System for Greek Social Events: Beginning in the Spring Semester 1997, registered parties hosted by chapters of the Interfraternity Council will be visited by Graduate Student Observers. These Observers will be trained through the TIPS program (a four-hour session designed to teach observers how to identify the signs of intoxication). Observers will carry a check list of possible Alcohol and Other Drug Policy violations and a cellular phone. They will note violations and contact Penn police to close parties in the case of violations. The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs will follow up on all violations.
Office of Health Education/Drug and Alcohol Resource Team: Campus wide prevention programs are organized and facilitated by the Alcohol and Other Drug Health Educator and peer educators from D.A.R.T. (Drug and Alcohol Resource Team). Prevention programming from September, 1995 through December, 1996 included the following:
Student Life Activities and Facilities: In the 1993 report, the Social Planning Committee of the Task Force stated, "that efforts to provide social programming opportunities will not eliminate abusive alcohol consumption on campus but are part of a larger set of changes that need to take place on campus...members acknowledge that institutionalizing substance-free social events will take several years." Several years have passed and the changes proposed have been institutionalized. Between September 1995 and December, 1996, student organizations such as the Class Boards, SPEC (Social Planning Events Committee), Student Activities Council, Connaissance, and others were responsible for organizing more than 188 different social activities. The activities included lectures by national speakers, dances, musical and theater arts performances, films, crafts fairs and much more. Access to information about these events is readily available through a web site: http://dolphin.upenn.edu/~oslaf/events.html.
Continuing Initiatives and Activities: Alumni Relations posts notices about Pennsylvania Alcohol laws at all events and provides information about area 12-Step meetings to interested alumni. The Penn Life Sketches as part of New Student Orientation includes a sketch devoted to alcohol and other drug issues and coordinates with the Office of Health Education on a number of other orientation activities. The Faculty/Staff Assistance Program, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Penn Women's Center provide consultation, assessment, small group and individual counseling services around alcohol and other drug related issues. These departments serve the counseling needs of the entire University community. In order best to meet its task as one facet of the enforcement arm of the AOD policy, the Division of Public Safety presents to students and staff information about its role and aids in the data collection process through its recording of incidents involving alcohol or other drug use. Penn Police are often called to transport students suffering from an alcohol or other drug medical emergency to the hospital. The Office of Student Conduct works closely with the staff from Counseling and Psychological Services and the Office of Health Education to refer properly students whose involvement in a judicial incident includes an alcohol or other drug policy violation. This collaboration has resulted in more than 60 students being referred for some level of service in the last two years. The Departments of Housing and Residence Life and Academic Programs in Residences begin with a written "no tolerance" policy for underage drinking, drug and drug paraphernalia possession and use, and public use of alcohol by those who are of age. Subsequently, their staff is trained to implement social, recreational, and educational programs as preventive measures (35 since the Fall of 1995) and are prepared to deal with crisis and emergencies by using the expert resources of the University (approximately 20 alcohol and or drug related cases over the course of the last three semesters). The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs meets each year with the leadership of the Greek System to review the varying policies that govern their social events with regard to alcohol use. In addition to the educational workshops offered through D.A.R.T., TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures by Servers of Alcohol) training was made available in the Fall of 1996 and 110 members of the Greek System participated. New members are expected to be TIPS trained this Spring. OFSA has sponsored two large awareness presentations with a national speaker on the topic of alcohol misuse.
The Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force will work to:
The Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force is proud of its recognition as one of the national "programs of excellence" cited in the Promising Practices; Campus Alcohol Strategies Sourcebook (1996). In the Source-book's introduction, it cautions colleges and universities against developing initiatives or strategies that are "quick fixes" and "inappropriately considered 'solutions' when long-term comprehensive approaches are required." The Task Force's perennial existence is indicative of the Uni-versity's commitment to developing more appropriate long-term approaches. The Task Force is confident that a healthier, safer campus with regard to alcohol and drug use and its negative consequences can be realized.
Comment on this report may be sent to Barbara Cassel at 3611 Locust Walk/6222, or by email to ovpul@pobox.
Volume 43 Number 18
January 21, 1997
Return to Almanac's homepage.
Return to index for this issue.