UC campuses begin alcohol initiatives

    A $6.9 million grant awarded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to the UC Berkeley Prevention Research Center is being used at various UC schools for alcohol awareness programs.

    The intercampus program began in 2003, when health services directors for the UC system resolved to pursue a project on alcohol prevention, PRC Senior Research Scientist Robert F. Saltz said. The original design of the program involved all eight undergraduate campuses and was expanded to include six California State University campuses.

    The five-year program involves UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and UC Riverside as what Saltz calls “intervention sites,” where funds have been allocated to implement alcohol-awareness and -prevention strategies. The other four undergraduate campuses — UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and UCSD — serve as “comparison sites” to gauge the program’s effects, according to Saltz.

    Through annual surveys, researchers have learned that across the board, most alcohol-related problems occur outside of campus borders.

    “In most all the cases, incidents of student drinking were related to off-campus parties, especially Greek houses, which we consider to be off campus,” Saltz said.

    To address the problem, interventions launched at Berkeley, Davis and Santa Cruz in the past year involved measures to help prevent injuries, assaults and drunk driving associated with off-campus parties. Riverside has postponed its involvement in the program.

    According to Saltz, the implemented measures came from the NIAAA’s Task Force Report, titled “A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges.”

    “The data showed that the environment in which high-risk drinking led to the greatest number of negative consequences for students, such as alcohol poisoning, assaults [and] property damage, was off-campus parties at houses and apartments,” UC Davis Health Promotion Supervisor Michelle Johnston said.

    UC Davis implemented a “Safe Party Campaign,” which focuses on responsible party hosting, police patrolling for parties and publicity for ordinances and laws relating to drinking.

    “The goal of the safe-party initiative is to reduce problems by creating safer party environments and by building a closer sense of community between students and nonstudent neighbors,” Johnston said. “We hope to reduce high-risk drinking, lower negative consequences and improve relations among Davis residents.”

    UC Santa Cruz launched a similar program, dubbed the “Just Say Gnome” campaign, publicized through T-shirts and posters of a gnome urging students to “party small.”

    The campaign focuses on holding smaller parties to avoid alcohol-related problems that go along with larger festivities and unexpected “crashing” guests, according to Michael Dorenzo, the UC Santa Cruz projects coordinator.

    “We polled students to find out what they wanted in parties and overwhelmingly they indicated that their preference is for smaller, more intimate gatherings where they felt safe to socialize, dance and have fun,” Dorenzo said. “Hence the party-small approach — party small, as in moderate consumption, minimum consequences, maximum fun.”

    Santa Cruz students have expressed concern over a “cost-response” rule, which allows the city to charge party hosts for police costs as well as a fine for disruptive parties, according to Dorenzo.

    Fines have been increased from $35 to $250 for first-time violations, while second and third violations within a 12-month period at the same address increase to $500 and $1,000, respectively, Dorenzo said.

    “Its aim is to assist police to curtail loud and unruly parties in local neighborhoods,” he said.

    Despite student concern over increased fines, Dorenzo also said that student response to the initiative has been largely positive.

    “How can you go wrong with a small, cheerful, bearded fellow in a red pointy hat?” Dorenzo said.

    Saltz said that while UCSD is currently a comparison site, for the PRC program, he hopes to see the campus, as well as the rest of the UC system, be included as a full-fledged intervention site in the future.

    The UCSD Police Department made 46 arrests for on-campus alcohol offenses last year, not including those for driving under the influence and drunk-in-public violations, according to Lt. David Rose.

    Between July 2004 and June 2005, UCSD police officers recorded 181 arrests or detentions for being drunk in public and 46 DUI arrests, although not all were UCSD students, Rose said.

    In the recent Undergraduate Student Experience and Satisfaction Report, committee members who compiled the report found that many students complained about the lack of alcohol at UCSD. Specifically, students expressed a desire for alcohol at campus-sponsored events, like the “Thank God It’s Friday” concert established years ago, when parties with alcohol were held every Friday, according to the report.

    “The campus should either bring back TGs or create a new regular event fulfilling these needs,” the report stated. “For example, having a barbecue with music and alcohol every Friday … would be a regular event that students could look forward to and reflect positively upon after they graduate.”

    While a separate committee will look into the report’s findings, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson said he is not convinced that alcohol is a means to create a more positive student experience.

    “Events that bring students and other members of the campus community together will increase student satisfaction and feelings of connectedness to the campus,” Watson said. “The most important feature [of campus events] is bringing members of the campus community together for an enjoyable event, not the presence or absence of alcohol.”

    The A.S. Council has proposed alcohol-related events in the past, including a beer garden at the Sun God festival, which Watson rejected last year. The council’s proposal would have allowed distribution of beer to students of legal age to prevent binge drinking during the day, former A.S. President Jenn Pae said at the time.

    Although an abundance of alcohol at Sun God requires additional police presence, the proportion of violators is small when compared to the number of event attendees, according to police Cpl. Doug O’Dell.

    “At the last Sun God we made over 100 arrests,” O’Dell said. “If you think about it, you have 20,000 people at the event, [and] most of the people are there just to have fun. A small percentage of individuals take the Sun God as a point to overindulge, and they’re the ones that cause problems. We have to staff for those people and take care of them.”

    A beer garden was held over the summer during the Jack Johnson concert and went without violations or arrests, which may be attributed to the fact that the concert had an older audience, O’Dell said.

    “Problems at events really depend on the mixture of the people coming to the event,” O’Dell said. “At certain events, there is a disproportionate amount of people there that are drunk.”

    Readers can contact Erika Cervantes at [email protected].

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