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Report to the President and Provost from the
Alcohol Response Team

Submitted: January 3, 2005


The Alcohol Response Team (ART), comprised of 18 students, faculty and staff, was convened at the request of President Amy Gutmann and Interim Provost Peter Conn in the fall of 2004. According to Penn’s Alcohol and Drug Policy, the Alcohol Response Team “advises the President and Provost on alcohol policy matters as they arise.” The ART was assembled this fall both in response to a terrible accident at a fraternity party involving a Penn undergraduate and because it has been five years since the last major revision of The University Alcohol and Drug Policy. In the spring of 2004, the Vice Provost for University Life named a “comprehensive evaluation of the alcohol policy” as one of her top priorities for the academic year.

The last time the alcohol policy was reviewed in-depth was in the spring of 1999. On March 30, 1999, the Working Group on Alcohol Abuse (WGAA) was formed in response to a number of serious alcohol-related incidents involving Penn students and the death of a Penn alumnus on March 21, 1999. The Working Group of 15 students and 7 faculty members and administrators was charged to develop practical, substantive recommendations regarding alcohol abuse among Penn undergraduates on both individual and community levels.

The Working Group and its subcommittees met intensively for five weeks. Its members determined that their work should focus on alcohol abuse, not use, and that their goal would be to produce recommendations that would effect significant cultural change among Penn undergraduates.  They agreed that the University already had in place reasonable regulations governing appropriate use of alcohol on campus but that the current system of enforcement presented a number of problems, which perpetuated a sense of entitlement felt by Penn students and led to additional problems. The group concluded that stricter enforcement of current policies was needed, designed with the intention of creating a change in attitudes regarding acceptable behavior. 

The group quickly determined that the problem of alcohol abuse was not confined to the Greek system and that a more comprehensive approach to the problem was necessary. The Working Group strongly agreed that the primary responsibility for changing perceptions, misperceptions and, ultimately, behavior relating to alcohol abuse rests with individual students and student groups. The Working Group considered ways to prevent alcohol abuse in the context of Education; Ensuring a Supportive Environment; Responsibility/Accountability; Minimizing Risk; and Expanded Social Options. The Working Group strongly agreed that its recommendations should be proactive rather than punitive. Among the 44 initiatives identified with the Working Group’s goals, it was suggested that a standing response team be created to advise the President and Provost as needed.

Summary of ART Meetings

The Alcohol Response Team was convened by Interim Provost Peter Conn and met for the first time in the 2004-2005 academic year on October 4. The group spent much of the initial meeting discussing the “culture” of drinking among 18-to-21-years-olds. There was consensus that it would be appropriate to consider whether the alcohol policy could be strengthened and to that end the committee agreed to review it in detail. It was also agreed that the behavioral changes required to support a safer campus environment could not be accomplished through policy revisions alone.

The ART agreed that the problem of alcohol abuse is not confined to Penn, but is part of a larger national problem that warrants addressing. Some on the committee stated that they believed that the stressful academic environment at Penn, and institutions like Penn, fosters a sense of “excess” e.g. to “work hard and to play hard.” Most members of the ART believe that while there is certainly high risk drinking at Penn, it occurs among a minority of Penn students who are particularly visible. There was a question about whether the University was consistent in the enforcement of its alcohol policies, and a discussion of whether the UPPD should be asked to crack down on underage drinking. Several members of the ART believed a more aggressive enforcement approach would risk damaging the positive relations currently existing between most Penn students and UPPD. Since the police are the “front line” to call when help is needed, anything that contributes to a sense of distrust could be counterproductive.

At the conclusion of the first meeting the group decided that future meetings should include a focus on the high-risk population, an examination of peer-to-peer groups like Team Sober and DART (Drug and Alcohol Response Team), and a thorough review of the Alcohol and  Drug Policy.

During its second meeting on October 20, the ART focused its discussion on high-risk drinking behaviors. Stephanie Ives presented data that captures Penn’s highest risk drinking groups. The ART discussed some problems with how the term “binge” is defined in describing the drinking behaviors of students. Ms. Ives explained that there is a national debate underway on this subject. Historically, binge drinking has been defined by the percentage of students who have consumed four (in the case of women) or five (in the case of men) drinks in an evening. However, the new approach would analyze quantity, frequency and negative consequences suffered.

The ART then heard from two undergraduate members of AA who shared their experiences with drinking and how they came to realize that they were alcoholic. The group asked them to lend insight into what kinds of efforts might help identify and then reach out to other students exhibiting high risk drinking behaviors. The two students, one male and one female, both indicated that it was a “bottoming” moment that made them aware that they had a problem with drinking, after years of denial.

Typical “bottom” experiences might include repeated blackouts, a noticeable change in grades, relationship problems with friends and/or family, hospital and/or jail visits, or any combination of these experiences. The two students indicated that they may or may not have been open to an “intervention.” They also said that as members of the Greek system they did feel that their peers tolerated their drinking patterns and did not confront them. However, once they self-identified as alcoholics, they indicated their Greek peers had been very supportive of their efforts to remain sober. The ART then discussed which types of students could be helped, and agreed that while the students in AA had reached their own epiphany about their high risk drinking, there were other students who may or may not be alcoholic, who might be effectively reached through an intervention of some type. Ms. Ives indicated that while we expend numerous resources on educational efforts, we do not put a lot of resources into intervention efforts for students identified as high-risk drinkers.

The ART met for the third time on November 9. The meeting focused on a review of the Alcohol and Drug Policy. Stephanie Ives and Michele Goldfarb led the ART through a series of both philosophical and practical questions related to the policy, e.g. What should the goal of the policy be and does it presently meet that mission? Are we consistent in our enforcement efforts and are there any areas that should be strengthened or eliminated? The group felt that in general the policy is sound and has withstood the test of time since its adoption five years ago. The group discussed the possibility of extending the medical amnesty clause to organizations, not just individuals, but after discussion, concluded that the risks for doing so outweighed any potential benefit.

Two specific revisions/additions were suggested­—one that would address the issue of “parties going on within parties,” on the upper levels of fraternity houses. The other suggestion was to ask organizations hosting events to produce “risk reduction” plans at the beginning of each academic year and present them to the Office of Alcohol Policy Initiatives. Additionally, it was proposed that organizations be prepared for randomly conducted “competency” tests, particularly with respect to emergency situations. A brief discussion was held on the Parental Notification policy and there was consensus that the present policy was thoughtful and appropriate and should not be altered.

During its fourth meeting on November 22, the ART focused its discussion on peer-to-peer groups and a continuation of the discussion on potential changes to the Alcohol and Drug Policy.

Nicki Pritz and Sean Levy presented to the group on DART. They explained that DART had undertaken three primary goals this year—to educate the community about high-risk drinking; to clarify its own message; and to expand its exposure. DART has been engaged in a number of training sessions this semester and also participates in New Student Orientation. Sean Levy and Erica Shmerler presented to the group about Team Sober and its present focus to help keep large, multi-house Greek events safe. There was a discussion about possibly expanding the composition of Team Sober to include non-Greek groups. Team Sober has been asked to consider participating in Spring Fling weekend and conversations are underway between the IFC and SPEC to explore this possibility. The ART concluded that an expansion of these peer-to-peer groups should be considered.

The ART then discussed three specific changes to the Alcohol and  Drug Policy, including sections related to risk reduction, “parties within parties” and host monitors. Jason Levine also suggested that another change could include an explicit reference to helping individuals identify and reach out to “high risk” drinkers.

During its fifth and final meeting of the semester on December 2, the ART continued its discussion of potential changes to the Alcohol and  Drug Policy, specifically focusing on Section III, Number 3, which addresses “responsible group behavior regarding alcohol use.” The revised language, as presented by Stephanie Ives, includes specific language that would require organizations to identify at least one member to become trained to recognize high-risk drinking and other drug behaviors and to provide appropriate referrals as necessary. This section of the policy also now requires groups registering events to produce a competency plan and present it to the Director of Alcohol Policy Initiatives for approval prior to registering any events. The ART also discussed the possibility of engaging SAC leadership in a discussion about whether or not it could/should mandate competency plans as a requirement for groups requesting SAC funds. It was agreed that a conversation with SAC leadership would be worthwhile as would conversations with other umbrella groups.

The group agreed that it had met its three major goals for the semester:

1. To conduct a thorough and thoughtful review of the Alcohol and Drug Policy and recommend appropriate policy revisions;

2. To suggest programmatic changes that would help contribute to a safer, healthier campus environment;

3. To carefully consider high-risk drinking behavior and develop steps that might be taken to identify and aid students with potential drinking problems.

Proposed Policy Changes

In reviewing the current University Alcohol and Drug Policy and considering amendments or additions to it, the ART ultimately focused its attention on two primary areas of concern—high-risk drinking in social settings and the need for trained, capable students empowered to understand and intervene in problematic situations. 

Committee members sought to foster additional measures to minimize excessive, dangerous drinking and also to come up with creative ways to heighten awareness of high-risk drinking among students. ART members grappled with realistic, achievable ways to encourage and train Penn students to continue to “take ownership” of a culture of high-risk drinking and work to make the campus social environment safer. Further, the committee felt that it was important to incorporate these concepts into concrete policy language in order to institutionalize the changes and assure enforceability and compliance.  It was also important to the committee to create policy language that respected and expanded upon some of the core concepts of the 1999 WGAA (see “History” section) i.e., ensure a supportive environment, increase individual and group responsibility and accountability and minimize risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption. 

Therefore, ART members created proposed language to add or reshape policy in the following particular areas:

1) further control access to alcohol at registered, on-campus parties to ensure the spirit and goal of minimizing risk is met;

2) increase internal oversight by student organizations at their own events;

3) expand training goals for students within organizations to enable them to better address alcohol and drug related problems, particularly high-risk behaviors;

4) and to require groups hosting social events with alcohol to develop “competency” plans to host safer parties.

The language the ART proposed to meet these concerns is as follows—the first two proposed changes deal with numbers 1 and 2 above. The first change addresses unauthorized or uncontrolled alcohol consumption occurring in private areas during registered parties. The second calls for additional host monitors at crowded registered events and seeks to meet the need for those host monitors to be trained and encouraged to do their job effectively.

1) With respect to location of alcohol service and consumption, current policy (Section II-B, Number 6) states:  “Alcohol may be served only from a controlled, designated area by sober, trained, of-age bartenders who are unaffiliated with the host organization.”

Proposed Additional Language:

**For the duration of registered events, individual members of host organizations may not entertain guests in private areas, including private bedrooms. Party attendance is restricted to the public area designated for the party. This prohibition applies to alcohol purchased and served by individual members of a host organization even if the alcohol is served in private bedrooms to of-age guests.**

2) On host monitors, the current policy (Section II-B, Number 8) reads:  “At all registered events, whether on-campus or at Third Party Vendors, the host organization must identify non-alcohol-consuming host monitors. There shall be at least one such host monitor for each 50 guests. These host monitors must be identified prior to the event and must be visually identifiable (e.g. armband, t-shirt or other visible designation of host monitor status) during the event to those in attendance.”

Proposed Additional Language:

**At all registered events, whether on-campus or at Third Party Vendors, the host organization must identify trained, non-alcohol-consuming host monitors. There shall be at least one such host monitor for each 30 guests. Each academic year, the host monitors must demonstrate to the Director of Alcohol Policy Initiatives that they have been trained to handle emergency situations, are able to respond to alcohol-related medical concerns, can identify and intervene appropriately with overly intoxicated guests whether or not they require medical treatment, understand and are able to carry out preventive safety features regarding the controlled service of alcohol, and evidence a clear understanding of the University’s alcohol and drug policies. These host monitors must be identified prior to the event and must be visually identifiable (e.g. armband, t-shirt or other clear and uniform designation of host monitor status) during the event to those in attendance.**

In addition, the ART proposes policy language additions/expansions to meet the goals of numbers 3 and 4 described above.

Section III, Number 3, currently reads: “In order to promote responsible group behavior regarding alcohol use, each student organization having more than 10 members and recognized by DRIA, VPUL, OFSA, SAC, OSL or the College Houses must have at least one member, in addition to the organization’s leader or president, trained about alcohol abuse and able to provide referrals. Failure to meet this requirement could result in the loss of University recognition and/or support.”

Proposed Language:

**In order to promote responsible group behavior regarding alcohol use, each student organization, recognized by DRIA, VPUL, OFSA, SAC, OSL, the undergraduate schools, and/or the College Houses must fulfill the following expectations:

1.  Each recognized organization having more than 10 members must have at least one member, in addition to the organization’s leader or president, trained to identify high-risk drinking and substance abuse within the membership (both individual and collective) and be able to provide appropriate referrals to education and counseling services. 

2.  Each recognized organization that intends to host registered events with alcohol (both on-campus and at Third Party Vendors), must design and implement an individualized plan to demonstrate competency in managing risk related to alcohol consumption. Such a plan would identify the methods through which the organization will control service of alcohol, promote moderate alcohol consumption, and respond to alcohol-related medical concerns. Each organization must specifically identify appropriate strategies for creating an environment in which alcohol use is secondary to the event itself and which emphasizes food and activities not related to alcohol so as to minimize the risk associated with its presence.  A competency plan must be submitted to the Director of Alcohol Policy Initiatives and the appropriate umbrella organization for approval prior to the registration of the first event of each academic year.

Failure to meet or abide by either requirement could result in the loss of University recognition and/or support.

Organizations not officially recognized by the University are encouraged to undertake similar efforts to ensure that high-risk drinking and substance abuse are appropriately addressed within the informal group.**

Programmatic Recommendations

The ART also sought to encourage cultural change through programmatic changes. These include:

•  The Response Team recommends expanding peer-to-peer education and intervention programs. 

Currently, the Drug and Alcohol Resource Team (DART) serves as Penn’s peer education program with regard to alcohol and other substances. DART conducts educational programs with new members of the Greek system, athletic teams, and College Houses. Team Sober is currently a Greek-specific informal organization whose mission is to ensure student safety during each semester’s Greek Week Party. 

The Response Team has proposed that Team Sober and DART both expand their activities accordingly. Team Sober could expand to non-Greek membership and become involved with other large party weekends, such as during Spring Fling or Homecoming. DART could become involved with training representatives from each student organization to identify high-risk drinking and substance abuse within the membership. 

•  The ART recommends that the University provide the appropriate additional resources to allow DART and Team Sober to expand.

In addition, the Response Team proposes that SAC and other student umbrella groups partner with DART to ensure that all recognized student organizations comply with the new risk reduction initiatives.

•  The group recommends that discussions begin with all student governance groups to explore the possibility of mandating that risk reduction programs become a prerequisite to any group applying for recognition and funding.

The Response Team encourages the Student Activities Council, the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic, the Bicultural InterGreek Council, and other governance groups, to endorse and require membership organizations to comply with the mandate to develop and implement group-specific risk reduction strategies and programs for at-risk members and behaviors. Such strategies would enable organizations to design and employ risk-reduction measures to address potential high-risk drinking among the students within each organization and to curb high-risk drinking practices that might be promoted within the membership.

Respectfully submitted by,

Valarie Swain Cade-McCoullum, Vice Provost for University Life

Peter Conn, Interim Provost, Chair

Michele Goldfarb, Director, Office of Student Conduct

Tory Haavik, Chair, Residential Advisory Board

Stephanie Ives, Director of Alcohol Policy Initiatives

Kevin Jude, VP for Policy, GAPSA

Anne Keane, Undergraduate Dean, School of Nursing

Jason Levine, Chair, UA

Sean Levy, Vice-President, IFC

Nancy Nicely, Executive Director of External Affairs, Office of the Provost

Philip Nichols, Faculty Director, College Houses and Academic Services

Conor O’Callaghan, President, IFC

Enny Peguero, President, Bi-Cultural Inter-Greek Council

Leah Popowich, Associate Director, Office of the President

Nicki Pritz, President, DART

Catherine Reddick, Women’s Crew Team

Tony Rostain, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, School of Medicine

Erica Shmerler, President, Panhellenic Council

Wendy White, Senior Vice President, Office of General Counsel, ex officio



  Almanac, Vol. 51, No. 16, January 11, 2005


January 11, 2005
Volume 51 Number 16


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