Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 21
 
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
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PU Alcohol Coalition Addresses “High-Risk Drinking” on Campus

Dilshanie Perera

Princeton University’s Alcohol Coalition Committee (ACC) recently announced a strategic plan that focuses on “high-risk drinking,” which it defines as “any time the health, well-being, or safety of the individual drinking or others is compromised or when community standards are compromised.”

Last year, the Healthier Princeton Advisory Board, which emerged out of the work of the University’s Task Force on Health and Well-being, assembled a “core group” of students, faculty, and staff to take a closer look at alcohol use and abuse on campus. After ascertaining that high-risk drinking is the issue of greatest concern, the Core Group formed the ACC. The strategic plan highlights three areas in which to develop initiatives to address the causes, outcomes, and effects of high-risk drinking. It recommends the creation of a standing body similar in function to the ACC that will assist initiative-focused working groups in implementing specific proposals and developing ideas. Such a body will report to Janet Dickerson, the vice president for Campus Life and co-chair of the Healthier Princeton Advisory Board. The group will give periodic updates to the Advisory Board as well.

The plan also recommends considering five areas for future initiatives: “education; policies, procedures, and discipline; activities, programs, and events; structures and environment; and communication and partnerships.”

Continuing to gather and distribute data about high-risk drinking is the last major recommendation. According to the findings of the ACC, such data informs the decision-making process, as well as quantifying goals, establishing high-risk drinking as an issue that deserves attention, and formulating targeted proposals.

The Committee is comprised of co-chairs Sanjeev Kulkarni, professor of Electrical Engineering and master of Butler College and Agatha Offorjebe, a junior at Princeton, and other undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff. In assembling the strategic plan, they garnered input from five main sources: the Core Group’s report, PrinceŠton-specific context and data, the best practices from other universities addressing high-risk drinking, meetings with stakeholders, and a series of workshops.

As stakeholders, members of the campus and community including student groups, the Borough and Township Councils, the police department, HiTops, and others provided critical information and important feedback. According to Mr. Kulkarni, “The groups were extremely supportive of what we were doing, and were happy to be included, but specific ideas of what to do and how to do it varied from group to group.” He added that “so many ideas came out from all of the stakeholder meetings, some of which were very short term, some very long term, that we felt that we really wanted to provide a strategic plan.”

Instead of listing specific initiatives, the plan reads as a broad outline to guide present and future efforts in addressing the drinking issue. Even so, new working groups have already begun to take more detailed actions.They will consider advance registration of parties that serve alcohol and review alcohol education programs during student orientation. Questions will also be added to the outgoing senior survey in order to gather data on drinking.

While Mr. Kulkarni acknowledges that there is “no magic bullet that’s going to solve the problems,” Robert Durkee, vice president and secretary of the University and co-chair of the Healthier Princeton Advisory Board, said, “This group has moved us off the starting line and on our way to creating a successful strategy for dealing with high-risk drinking among students. We’re not at the finish line yet, but this is a significant step in the right direction. We look forward to much progress in the coming year.”

The new committee will include undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff. Those interested in joining the committee or commenting on the report may e-mail acc@princeton.edu.

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