University to hire alcohol and safety educator

The hiring comes as a result of yearlong commission on alcohol and student safety

· February 18, 2014, 9:49 am   ·  Updated February 19, 2014, 3:20 am

The University will hire an additional staff member to combat alcohol abuse and provide safety education, Penn President Amy Gutmann said Tuesday.

The announcement comes as a response to recommendations made by a yearlong commission studying alcohol use and student safety on campus. One of the report’s three main recommendations is to create the position.

The staff member would “focus on educating students about interpersonal violence, sexual assault and hazing prevention in collaboration with other campus resource offices,” the report says.

The eight-page report notes widespread alcohol consumption at Penn: 87 percent of freshmen and 62 percent of all undergraduates drink before going out, the report says. Almost 40 percent of undergraduates said they use alcohol or other drugs to combat stress. Between Aug. 15, 2011 and May 14, 2013, 518 students had interactions with the Division of Public Safety for alcohol-related incidents, according to the report.

The report also recommends periodic assessments of resources to prevent alcohol and drug misuse and continual development of programming to address these issues.

“We will take all of the recommendations in the report and move forward with them as soon as possible, taking all the additional steps to further strengthen our efforts to make sure we continue to have best practices in preventing and responding to the misuses of alcohol and other drugs,” Gutmann said in an interview Tuesday.

The commission commends the University for being “proactive and inventive in its efforts to reduce the misuse of alcohol and other drugs and the negative consequences that can result.” It mentions measures like the medical amnesty policy, MERT and a pilot program implemented last school year to provide incentives to register on-campus parties.

However, the report also notes inconsistencies in the way alcohol violations are handled across college houses and charges College Houses and Academic Services with reviewing and standardizing the policies. Additionally, the directors of Student Health Service and the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives will work with the emergency department at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to develop a pilot program that will record the blood alcohol content of students who are sent to the hospital for alcohol-related issues, according to the report.

“One of the reasons I think it was important to have this commission was to raise everyone’s awareness of the issue,” Gutmann said. “We need to see that addressing the issue is truly a community effort and we need to do things at every level, including at the level of students, to educate and help students live safely on campus.”

Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price announced the establishment of the Commission on Student Safety, Alcohol and Campus Life on Jan. 9, 2013. The commission, led by Vice Chair of the Department of Psychiatry Charles O’Brien, paid particular attention to student use of alcohol and other drugs and risks associated with their use, such as sexual violence.

Administrators said last year that there was no particular incident that spurred the creation of the commission. The last comprehensive study of alcohol use took place in 1999 and led to the implementation of the University Alcohol and Drug Policy, most of which remains in place today.

The University Council will discuss the findings of the report at its February meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

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