Penn Announces New Commission on Student Safety, Alcohol and Campus Life

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Media Contact:Phyllis Holtzman | holtzman@upenn.edu | 215-898-8743 January 9, 2013

PHILADELPHIA -- University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price today announced the formation of the Penn Commission on Student Safety, Alcohol and Campus Life.  

The Commission will review the status of student social life at Penn with a primary focus on consumption of alcohol and other drugs and the consequences for student conduct.  It will pay particular attention to the potential for sexual violence and other forms of injurious behavior that can result from excessive alcohol consumption. It will also assess the efficacy of existing programs that are designed to ensure responsible student conduct and safety, and make recommendations for enhanced or new programs, policies, and practices to improve the quality and safety of student life.

“Penn has worked long and hard to be a leader in providing a safe and healthy environment for students, and in educating our students to act respectfully and responsibly toward one another,” Gutmann said.  “Nationally there have been a disturbing number of recent incidents where excessive alcohol consumption led to tragic consequences. No campus — indeed no sector of American society — is immune from these problems. This is an important time to examine our current programming to ensure that Penn’s policies and programs represent the very best practices for facilitating responsible student conduct.”

The Commission will be chaired by Charles O’Brien, the Kenneth Appel professor and vice chair of psychiatry and director of the Center for Studies of Addiction in Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. He is an internationally renowned expert on alcohol dependency and public policy. 

Joann Mitchell, vice president for Institutional Affairs, will be the vice chair.  Other members of the Commission will be: Andrew Binns, vice provost for education; Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, vice provost for university life; Dennis DeTurck, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Maureen Rush, vice president for public safety; and Wendy White, senior vice president and general counsel.

“The members of this Commission are all distinguished in their respective fields and allow us to bring critical expertise in  pursuit of the most constructive and effective ways of addressing this problem,” said Gutmann.

In carrying out its charge, the Commission will consult broadly both across campus and beyond.  It will call upon faculty experts, student leaders and administrators. It will establish working groups as necessary, including student representatives, to examine the current state of campus life and safety at Penn; national campus trends; peer practices; and the best available means of improving the quality and safety of students’ experience at Penn.

“We take pride in the dedication of our student leaders and campus community to address the problems facing many campuses today,” said Price. “Most recently, working closely with students, we piloted changes to our alcohol policy aimed at increasing registered social events and contributing to responsible student conduct.  We want to be certain that we have explored every available option for reducing the misuse of alcohol and other drugs, and the dangers they bring.  Our goal is to maintain a vibrant, healthy and respectful community at Penn.”

The Commission is expected to hold its first meeting in mid-January and present a report of its findings and recommendations by the end of 2013.

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