University to Take Action in Attempt to Curb Drinking Problem
It is safe to say that the 2009-2010 academic year wasn’t a great one regarding alcohol-related problems. Starting with the Princeton Review naming Penn State the #1 party school to Joe Dado’s death to about a dozen alcohol-related sexual assaults to record-setting crime on State Patty’s Day, it has become apparent that something needs to change regarding drinking on campus and downtown. If University Vice President for Student Affairs, Damon Sims, and Borough Manager Tom Fountaine have their way, things will change. In a discussion with the Centre Daily Times, Sims and Fountaine remarked at how the drinking culture at Penn State is not unique across the country, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. Tensions between the residents of the Borough and the students at the University are at an all-time high, and the University wants to change that.
Starting in the Fall the University will increase the amount of counseling that students who end up in the emergency room for alcohol overdoses receive. The University will implement BASICS — Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students — an alcohol intervention program given to students who are treated for overdoses. Students will be required to pay $200 for the program or face the University’s judicial system. In addition, the University will send letters to parents of incoming students urging them to discuss excessive consumption of alcohol with their children, and is considering implementing a policy that will require students previously ejected from Beaver Stadium for drunken behavior to pass a breathalyzer test before being admitted to football games. Many other Universities across the country already have this program in place.
The town is taking action too, looking to increase the number of bathrooms available at night to minimize public urination, and is in talks with state legislators to raise the fine for summary offenses over $400 for the first time in 40 years. They are also pushing the idea of block parties being held in the fall for students and residents to interact, Centre County Public Issues Forum cochairwoman Lou Ann Evans believes that “you’re less likely to throw beer bottles on Mrs. Smith’s lawn if you know Mrs. Smith.” The State College Police Department is looking at programs to curb issues in the fraternity-laden Highlands district, such programs could involve increased patrols by officers as well as a potential student auxiliary program being implemented, similar to the one found on campus.
It’s clear that the Borough and the University are serious about cutting back on the drinking problems that plagued last year. Some of these policies are certain to be unpopular with the student population, but perhaps that’s exactly what is needed to stop these issues and cool the tension between Town and Gown.
[Photo Credit: Annemarie Mountz for Penn State Live]