On the heels of a formal approval by Penn, the Undergraduate Assembly unanimously passed a resolution late Sunday night endorsing a new pilot program that will set more relaxed standards for the use of alcohol at on-campus, registered events.
Among other changes, the pilot will allow mixed drinks to be served at certain registered parties. Since Penn’s alcohol policy was approved in 1999, the University has prohibited all hard alcohol — whether served alone or mixed into a drink — at on-campus events.
The program also aims to create more spaces on campus for non-Greek student groups to host events with alcohol.
The pilot program comes as the result of a year-long review of Penn’s Alcohol and Drug Policy by the Alcohol Policy Review Committee — a group made up of students, administrators and members of the University of Pennsylvania Police Department.
In an internal email sent from Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum to Director of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives Julie Lyzinski Nettleton Wednesday afternoon, McCoullum wrote that VPUL had formally signed off on the pilot.
“With VPUL’s endorsement, and that of the Council of Undergraduate Deans, the University, through Provost Vince Price, has approved the recommendation for a practice pilot and has authorized you to proceed with implementation as we have discussed,” McCoullum said in the email.
The main goal of the pilot, Nettleton said, is to increase student safety while making it more attractive for student groups to register on-campus events.
“Shortly after the committee began meeting, everybody in the room unanimously agreed that on-campus events are safer than off-campus events,” she said. “A huge driving force for this committee was to increase the use of on-campus party registration — to hear the reasons why it wasn’t being utilized, to hear the roadblocks and hurdles students were encountering.”
Over the years, Nettleton explained, the University has noticed a steady rise in off-campus parties, which she believes foster dangerous binge drinking habits. With that in mind, the pilot is intended to bring parties back onto campus, while at the same time acknowledging the realities of Penn’s drinking culture.
She described the provisions about mixed drinks as “the part we spent the most time talking about.”
Under the terms of the pilot, registered events that have a guest list of no more than 150 people will be allowed to serve mixed drinks — with a number of caveats. The pilot defines mixed drinks as those containing “a maximum of two types of 80-proof alcohol (e.g. vodka and rum; grain alcohol is prohibited), no full bar, no shots or ‘on the rocks’ single shot alcohol drinks only (e.g. no Long Islands or ‘doubles’).”
Events with more than 150 attendees will still be limited to beer and wine service only.
“We’re not handing students a handle of liquor and saying ‘drink away.’ We’re saying that mixed drinks are allowed on a case-by-case basis at certain events on campus,” Nettleton said. “The service of that will be done by a certified bartender who is trained in safety measures for college campuses specifically, and therefore we feel this is on one level meeting what students are saying they want … but also maintaining safety as the top priority.”
Another central focus of the pilot is increasing “social equity” — enticing non-Greek student groups to host on-campus events where alcohol can be served.
To that end, the pilot will open up additional on-campus spaces — which could include rooms like Houston Hall’s Hall of Flags — where organizations can host parties, mixers and other events with alcohol. These events will still be subject to the standards set by both the pilot and the current alcohol policy.
“Today, on-campus registered events for undergraduates involving alcohol are very much limited to fraternity houses, which means that fraternity parties basically define the culture for events with alcohol on campus,” Nettleton said. “It really limits undergraduate groups that aren’t Greek and aren’t male to host events on campus.”
All student organizations will also be able to apply to receive funding for one or two security guards at their on-campus events. Penn’s alcohol policy currently requires that all registered events have a security presence, but does not provide any means for groups to get University funding for the security.
Nettleton acknowledged that the APRC did not set out in the early stages of its review — which began in August 2011 — to create a pilot program. In the spring semester, however, she said the committee began realizing the benefits of implementing a pilot, rather than a full-blown policy change.
“The difference between a policy change and a pilot is that a pilot can be taken away whenever we want,” she said. “So it’s a pilot because we have yet to demonstrate empirically that it’s effective. Once we do that, the conversation changes.”
One year from now, the committee’s plan is to revisit the pilot to assess its effectiveness, and possibly open up discussions about bringing on a full policy change.
The approval of the pilot has been a long-time coming for the APRC. While a copy of the proposed changes was initially scheduled to be made public at a November 2011 UA meeting, its release has been delayed at multiple points over the past year.
“At the first meeting of the committee, we talked about how this was going to be a long process,” said Karu Kozuma, director of the Office of Student Affairs and interim Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs. “I think a quick turnaround would have indicated that we hadn’t done our due diligence.”
Nettleton attributed part of the delay to the fact that, “over the last year and a half, it has not always been clear to my office that the students were committed to this being a successful review.”
“We wanted to make sure that if we put recommendations forward, this was going to be a true collaboration with the student body, and it has taken a full year of work to be at a place where we could feel confident we could do that,” she added.
Within the next week, Nettleton said the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives and the Office of Student Affairs will begin to post documents online informing students groups of the rollout process for the pilot. College junior and UA President Dan Bernick, a member of the APRC, added that the UA will play a key role in getting the word out to students about the new registration process for on-campus events.
“We hope students recognize that this is a great opportunity for Penn to have a safer, more vibrant and more equitable social scene,” Bernick said. “We hope they take advantage of these opportunities for safe fun.”Comments powered by Disqus
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