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Penn State Initiatives

In the past decade, Penn State has implemented numerous initiatives to address (see below for details) underage and excessive drinking. The University has invested in education and outreach efforts including social marketing, curriculum inclusion, substance-free housing options, peer initiatives, support groups, screening and intervention, counseling, self-help groups and alcohol-free late-night social activities. Education is a top priority at Penn State and that includes teaching students about the risks and impact of dangerous drinking behavior. Penn State has one of the most aggressive student misconduct policies in the country, and its off-campus policy pertaining to misconduct remains the most vigorous in the Big Ten.

Penn State also has implemented specific initiatives geared to fraternity and sorority chapters, including:

The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life sets educational programming requirements for chapters through its annual accreditation (now dubbed Standards of Excellence) program. Through this program, 80 percent of chapter members must attend an educational program covering hazing, alcohol, sexual assault, diversity, mental health or risk management.

In Fall 2016, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life partnered with the Center for Women Students to present an interactive program called ‘Sex Signals,’ that educated attendees on consent, the relationship between alcohol and sexual assault, and bystander intervention. All new members to fraternities and sororities were required to attend.

Novak Talks, a national risk management education and training company, also was hired to provide risk management training to all officers of fraternities and sororities. In spring 2016, 80 percent of all Greek-letter chapters were mandated to attend a session that covered hazing. Similar initiatives have been instituted every year.

Over the years, the University’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life also collaborated with RISE Partnerships, an education and consulting firm for interfraternal communities, to create an interactive seminar designed specifically for members of Penn State’s fraternity and sorority community addressing attitudes, perceptions and beliefs that allow hazing to take place.

Every national Greek-letter organization also has educational requirements around these issues and the vast majority of them send national representatives to campus each year to provide chapter specific training.

In addition to the initiatives on the previous page, Penn State has also implemented:

Fraternities & Sororities

In addition to the required participation in a variety of educational programs each academic year as part of chapter accreditation process, the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association also offer the opportunity for fraternity and sorority chapters to receive additional credit or points in the accreditation process if members attend additional educational programs. Alcohol education is one of the possible topics for educational programs, as well as hazing and sexual misconduct. Each fraternity and sorority chapter also must demonstrate that the chapter’s new member education program includes a substantial alcohol education component.

Residence Life

Resident Assistants, whose training class “CNED 302” has two sessions devoted to drug and alcohol use, conduct programming that incorporates alcohol education, including the dissemination of information about University alcohol policy and state law through residence hall floor meetings and one-on-one interactions. Residence Life also collaborates with University Health Services and the University Police on alcohol and drug issues.

Alcohol Education Workshops

The University provides numerous workshops, speakers and presentations related to alcohol issues on campus. For example, in 2014-2015, UHS staff conducted 31 educational programs about alcohol for academic classes, sororities and fraternities and other student groups. In 2015-2016, UHS conducted 29 alcohol education programs. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) conducts alcohol and other drug education as well. CAPS incorporates information about alcohol and other drug use into first-year seminars Students in Distress, and Show You Care programs. In 2014-2015, CAPS conducted 56 programs that included alcohol-related information. In 2015-2016, CAPS conducted 67 programs. The University also invites nationally recognized speakers on alcohol prevention to campus to speak with first-year student athletes each year. University Police and Public Safety are actively involved in alcohol and drug education programs, especially in the residence halls.

Coordination with Town and Gown

The State College and University Police departments have access to passive preliminary breath testing devices (PBTs) at any time of day. This device allows officers to gather more evidence, increasing the number of underage drinking violations detected.

The State College Police Department has increased patrols (foot, bike, and car) in the downtown and monitor the activity in and around taverns. In addition, the State College Police Department and University Police collaborate with the Downtown Improvement District (DID) on an initiative called the Downtown Security Enhancement Program (DSEP). Public Safety Auxiliary Police Officers patrol on foot and alert police officers when they observe disturbances and other illegal or dangerous activity―including people under the influence of alcohol to a degree they are a danger to themselves or others.

The State College Police and University Police collaborate on the Neighborhood Enforcement Alcohol Team Program (NEAT), which includes officers (two from each jurisdiction) who work in pairs to conduct additional patrols of downtown neighborhoods.  Officers look for alcohol, noise, and other disorderly and mischief-related incidents.  Additionally, student auxiliary staff patrol the nearby Highlands residential neighborhood providing extra security as part of the Neighborhood Security Enhancement Program (NSEP). The State College Police Department continues to assign officers to the Source Investigation Program (SIP) that identifies both those who furnish alcohol to minors and those drinking underage.

During Penn State home football games, problematic tailgating areas receive increased law enforcement attention. Police enforce a game-time alcohol prohibition to help reduce excessive consumption.

State College Police also has increased monitoring of parties. The State College Police encourages officers to make contact with disorderly residences before receiving a citizen complaint.  When appropriate, State College Police will issue disorderly conduct citations for noise violations prior to receiving a complaint from the public.

A collaborative effort by town and gown to discourage area vendors from promoting State Patty’s Day, a game day-like law enforcement presence, extensive timely messages about responsible behavior from student leaders and their organizations, notification to other Pennsylvania colleges and universities if their students are found responsible for unlawful action in State College that day, appropriate messages to alumni, and efforts to encourage faculty to use create academic expectations for students on Friday and the succeeding Monday will be the focus of efforts to mitigate State Patty’s Day problems.

Smart and Safe at State Guides

In 2015, The University was awarded a two-year grant from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to create ‘party smart guides’ for students living on and off campus. The guides include information about the University’s alcohol policy, the University’s code of conduct, state laws, and local ordinances. The guide also includes information about sanctions for alcohol violations.  Information about campus and community resources is included. The guide highlights the signs of alcohol poisoning and how to help someone who has alcohol poisoning. The guides also contain information about Pennsylvania’s medical amnesty (Good Samaritan) law and Penn State’s Responsible Action Protocol. Grant funds were used to print and deliver one guide to every undergraduate student for the past two years.

Alcohol-free Activities

Beginning in the late 1990s, the University was one of the first institutions in the country to offer to its students a program of late-night, alcohol-free activities. In fact, this program, called LateNight Penn State, was so successful that in 1999 the U.S. Department of Education recognized it as a model program for reducing alcohol consumption among college students.  Over the years, LateNight Penn State, which is offered at the HUB student center, Thursday through Sunday with activities running until 1:30 a.m. on most Fridays and Saturdays, has featured musicians, comedians, magic shows, arts and crafts, dancing, games and movies.  LateNight Penn State is very popular among students. The University has seen the attendance rate for this program reach approximately 30,000 students in a year. Staff in Residence Life organize alcohol-free community building events throughout the academic year.

Alcohol-Related Print Materials

University Health Services produces and distributes three main health communication pieces about alcohol. Those pieces include: 1) a blood alcohol information card; 2) an alcohol poisoning information magnet; and, 3) an information card about the Pennsylvania medical amnesty law and Penn State’s Responsible Action Protocol. These three communication pieces are included in the welcome materials that every first-year student receives upon checking into a residence hall. The materials also are distributed at all alcohol education workshops. The materials are available to students in the Student Health Center.

Alcohol-free Living

Effective Fall 2010, the University mandated that all first-year residence halls be “dry” – even if the occupants were of legal drinking age. The University now has one of the most restrictive prohibitions against alcohol possession and use in campus residences among Big Ten schools, if not nationally. The University also provides substance-free housing as part of its Students Living in a Free Environment (LIFE) House program. LIFE House residents, who at the outset complete a contract demonstrating their commitment to substance-free housing, live on a residence hall floor with other students who are committed to a similar substance-free lifestyle.

Intervention, Counseling and Support

  • Penn State increased sanctions so that all off-campus underage possession or consumption charges brought against University students are now processed through the University disciplinary system. Sanctions have been adjusted to increase minimum penalties in most cases involving alcohol, and the consequences for re-offenders have increased as well.
  • Penn State also notifies parents of every case involving alcohol violations by an underage student.

UHS and CAPS provide intervention-based programming and services for students who show early signs of potential alcohol abuse and addiction. Among other initiatives, UHS and CAPS offers the following services and programs:

  • BASICS: Health Promotion and Wellness has been running an educational program for mandated students since the 1980s. The current version of the program, which was launched in July 2010, is based on a nationally recognized, evidence-based model called BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students). BASICS uses a harm-reduction approach and is designed to decrease risky behaviors and the negative effects of drinking. All students who have violated laws or policies relating to underage consumption of alcohol, public drunkenness, excessive consumption, or driving under the influence, either on or off campus, as well as students who have visited the Mount Nittany Medical Center Emergency Department for alcohol-related treatment, are required to attend BASICS.
  • Alcohol Intervention Program: Among other services, CAPS offers the Alcohol Intervention Program (AIP). AIP is “brief counseling” (i.e., one to four sessions), accommodating referrals from the Office of Student Conduct and/or Office of Residence Life. Occasionally, referrals to this program are made by those who do not work for the University, such as district justices or probation officers. This therapeutic intervention, a form of treatment, is provided by a professional counselor who specializes in drug and alcohol counseling.
  • Collegiate Recovery Community and Lions for Recovery: In 2011, the Penn State Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) was founded to help students in recovery from alcohol and other addictions. The program is designed to link students with recovery-related services and persons in recovery, including fellow students; support the University’s academic mission by pairing education and recovery; facilitate the development of healthy and sustainable habits of mind, body, and spirit; and support lifelong recovery by providing a University community committed to helping students, even after graduation. In 2011, students formed a new organization called Lions for Recovery (LFR), which is dedicated to supporting the recovery community at the University.
  • LionsCare: In Fall 2015, the University began offering LionsCare, a free confidential text messaging service shown to be effective in reducing alcohol-related consequences. LionsCare is available to all students. Students who have alcohol-related emergency department visits receive information about the service with discharge instructions from Mount Nittany Medical Center.

As we continue to evaluate our initiatives, we are committed to ongoing assessments:

  • The Penn State Pulse survey on student drinking and the annual Partnership assessment report continue to provide longitudinal data allowing us to compare student attitudes and behaviors over time and measure the effectiveness of our efforts.
  • Data collected from the Student Satisfaction Survey provides more in-depth analyses of student engagement and alcohol issues.
  • Penn State Climate Survey, first performed in 2016, also provides insight into the use of alcohol as it relates to sexual misconduct.
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