According to the American Medical Association, on one-third of America's campuses, more than half the students are binge drinkers. Binge drinking is generally defined as the consumption of five or more drinks in a row for men (four for women) one or more times during a two-week period. A 1996 AMA survey revealed that 20 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 reported binge drinking, and many of them admitted drunken driving.The University of Delaware and the city of Newark are playing an important part in a major national effort to curb high-risk drinking of alcohol among young people.
In October 1996, the UD/City of Newark Community Coalition received a $700,000, five-year grant, as part of a seven-year, $8.6 million program funded by the American Medical Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to curb binge drinking by changing the norms, attitudes, policies and practices affecting binge drinking on and off college campuses.
UD won a leadership role in the project because of its innovative and cooperative programs already in place to help address this important behavioral problem. Other recipients of five-year grants were the University of Vermont (Burlington), the University of Colorado at Boulder and Lehigh University. The universities of Iowa and Wisconsin received planning grants under the program.
Dr. Nancy W. Dickey, AMA board chair, said the schools selected showed "a determination to deal with a problem that almost every university shares....You cannot drink and think."
When the grant was announced last fall, UD President David P. Roselle said, "High-risk drinking is the number one health and safety issue on college and university campuses across this country. Our particular project will involve city leaders and UD faculty, staff, students and parents, all working together on strategies that present high-risk drinking as a health and safety issue.
"Emphasis also will be placed on the rights of victims of high-risk drinking and the need to change the 'culture' of student alcohol use," Roselle said. "This collaborative effort will involve county and state coalitions and other groups, as well as the public school system, from which a large portion of our student population is drawn."
Newark Mayor Ronald L. Gardner said, "I have much concern for the person who is a problem drinker, but I'm more concerned as mayor of the city with the results of the drinking, how the adverse behavior affects the nondrinking student and, more specifically for the city, the nondrinking resident who is adversely affected by the people who have been drinking heavily and, as a result of that, have caused disturbances, caused physical damage, caused disruption in the community."
Now, nearly one year into the grant period, a number of initiatives are already under way on the Newark campus, including stricter sanctions against students who abuse alcohol, changes to the student judicial system, alternative programming and special education programs.
"We had received complaints," Roland T. Smith, vice president for student life, said, "from students, staff and members of the community that the previous sanctions were not meaningful and amounted to a slap on the wrist of those individuals who repeatedly use alcohol abusively."
One of the objectives of these new sanctions is to make the punishment associated with alcohol abuse clear and understandable to all students, according to John Bishop, assistant vice president for student life and director of counseling and student development. Bishop is the director of the UD/city effort.
"We hope our initiatives will paint a clear picture for students about what is expected of them," Bishop said, "and where we stand regarding alcohol abuse on campus and in the community."
Smith compared the issue to the beginning of the anti-smoking campaign in this country about 15 years ago. The intent is not to abolish one's right to drink, but to have those who drink do so in an appropriate fashion that does not have a negative impact on others.
The University did not change its standing alcohol policy, which prohibits the unauthorized (including underage) possession, use, manufacture or distribution of alcohol on campus. Under the existing policy, students under the age of 21 may not possess or consume alcohol on campus; students of legal age may possess and consume alcoholic beverages on an individual basis in the privacy of their residence hall rooms; possession of an open container or consumption of alcoholic beverages in any other area other than individual rooms is forbidden; and the possession and consumption of alcohol may not infringe upon the privacy and peace of other individuals. In all such situations, the consumption of alcoholic beverages is considered as aggravating, rather than mitigating, the situation.
Under the new sanctions, on- and off-campus, upperclass students are treated in the same fashion. Local law enforcement authorities will inform the campus judicial system of any alcohol-related violations committed by students who do not reside in campus housing. The upperclass alcohol abuser will not be able to skirt the new University sanctions by living in off-campus housing, Smith said.
Mayor Gardner praised the stiffer sanctions for the first offense, parental notification and suspension from the University, and said, "I've always believed that if parents are made aware of some of the unacceptable behavior of their children, then that would result in positive changes."
According to Timothy F. Brooks, dean of students, "The changes in alcohol policy sanctions send a clear message to students that alcohol abuse and related problems will not be tolerated on campus or in the city of Newark.
"The new policies also define sanctions for recognized student organizations, including fraternities and sororities," he added. "A first alcohol offense leads to disciplinary probation and a $300 fine. The second offense results in deferred suspension and a $600 fine. A third means that the group loses all campus privileges and is not allowed to bring in new members for a minimum of one year. These sanctions are designed to reduce large parties sponsored by the groups where alcohol is illegally furnished and where there is disruptive behavior."
Other initiatives on the campus are taking a variety of approaches to addressing the problems associated with binge drinking.
The Five-Star Chapter Evaluation program was implemented at the beginning of the 1996 academic year, with each registered organization evaluated in five areas: academics, financial management, University/community relations and service, campus involvement and membership intake and/or pledge program.
A chapter can earn up to five stars based on its success, which is measured on a point system that rewards achievements but also can penalize inappropriate behavior. Violations of the University's Code of Conduct are considered serious and can drop a chapter one star level or more. The loss of 31 points, a very high number, is assessed for an alcohol violation. This stiff penalty complements the University's strong educational effort regarding use and abuse of alcohol.
Last year, a backlog of cases slowed the system down, but now the system is streamlined to ensure that a student receives a timely and fair resolution to his or her case. As a file is made, it is immediately available to those involved.
The Office of the Dean of Students processes cases brought by Public Safety and by the faculty, which may involve academic dishonesty. Residence Life handles infractions that occur in residence halls. Appeals are reviewed by the appellate board, which functions through the Office of the Dean of Students.
When charged, the student immediately receives a notification for a pre-hearing and has three days to comply. If a student pleads guilty at the pre-hearing, sanctions (such as fines) are applied, parents are notified by letter and there is no appeal.
If the student pleads not guilty, then a hearing is held with a professional staff member who determines whether the student is guilty or not guilty. If not guilty, the file is destroyed. If guilty, the student is sanctioned or has five days to appeal in writing.
Members representing the appellate board, consisting of four faculty, four professional staff and six students, meet and review appeals. The board may deny the appeal or keep the case open for further action, such as seeking additional information or reducing sanctions.
Although this total process is longer than a simple pre-hearing, the time should be cut in half thanks to the new information system.
Last year, most of the cases handled by the Office of the Dean of Students involved alcohol, drugs or disruptive behavior. "We are up front and are clear about what constitutes an offense and the sanctions that will follow," Nancy Geist Giacomini, assistant dean of students, said.
Residence Life has a similar system, with the residence life staff handling infractions and sanctions. Formerly, resident assistants were witnesses in the judicial system. Now, they have received training to become the charging parties who report infractions in the residence halls. The incident report is sent to the area coordinator, who reviews it and a pre-hearing notice is given to the student who must attend the pre-hearing within three days. Hall directors then meet with the student for the pre-hearing and the student pleads not guilty or guilty.
"These meetings are important in getting students on the right track. Our goal is the well-being of students and their success in college. The meetings also pinpoint problems that otherwise may not surface," Kathryn Goldman, assistant director of residence life, said.
If the student pleads guilty, sanctions are administered and parental notification is sent. If the student pleads not guilty, the file is sent to the Office of Residence Life secretary and an administrative hearing is held by the assistant area coordinator. If found guilty, the student may appeal the ruling to the appellate board.
A wide range of events, from films and lectures to comedy shows, bus trips and concerts, all designed specifically to appeal to the student audience, are presented each semester by the Trabant University Center and the Perkins Student Center.
Also among the many different-and enriching- ways to spend free time at the University is to become involved in volunteer activities. The campus abounds with opportunities for students to get involved with everything from animals to babies to senior citizens and more.
Coordinated by Jane Moore, assistant dean of students, the Community Service Program offers students a myriad of ways to be active by volunteering.
"We hope to present students with worthwhile things to do as they get to know each other and the community," Moore said. "Volunteerism is a great way to work and play together while making a contribution."
This year, every incoming student received a letter from the Office of the Dean of Students that listed 25 local organizations looking for volunteers. They included short-term commitments, such as handing out fliers at Newark Community Day for Citizens Against Traffic (CAT) or working at a race to benefit Habitat for Humanity, as well as long-term commitments, such as mentoring a child through Big Brothers/Big Sisters or befriending a disabled person through the ARC (Association for the Rights of Citizens) of Delaware. Students were encouraged to choose an opportunity they would like to explore alone or with a group of friends for personal satisfaction or career development.
Also this year, each residence hall was asked to select a community agency to support. Greek organizations also were encouraged to expand their role in volunteerism.
"One of our major goals," Vice President Smith said, "is to reduce society's acceptance of alcohol abuse. We want to deglamorize it on our campus."
-President David P. Roselle
"The changes in alcohol policy sanctions send a clear message to students that alcohol abuse and related problems will not be tolerated on campus or in the city of Newark."
-Timothy F. Brooks, dean of students
"We hope our initiatives will paint a clear picture for students about what is expected of them, and where we stand regarding alcohol abuse on campus and in the community."
-John Bishop, assistant vice president for student life and director of counseling and student development
"Our goal is the well-being of students and their success in college."
-Kathryn Goldman, assistant director of residence life
"I have much concern for the person who is a problem drinker, but I'm more concerned as mayor of the city with the results of the drinking, how the adverse behavior affects the nondrinking student and, more specifically for the city, the nondrinking resident who is adversely affected by the people who have been drinking heavily and, as a result of that, have caused disturbances, caused physical damage, caused disruption in the community."
-Newark Mayor Ronald L. Gardner
"One of our major goals is to reduce society's acceptance of alcohol abuse. We want to deglamorize it on our campus."
-Roland T. Smith, Vice President for Student Life