Spears sketches alcohol policies

| 11/30/10 11:00pm
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12.01.10.news.SPARHC
by Nicholas Root and Nicholas Root / The Dartmouth

The initiatives are the result of recommendations from the Student and Presidential Alcohol Harm Reduction Committee and the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault, as well as continued discussion with students, faculty, staff and members of the Hanover community, administrators said.

Spears announced the expansion of educational programming about alcohol for undergraduates, especially first- and second-year students, and the creation of a "bystander intervention program to equip students with the skills to prevent and reduce" instances of sexual assault. Spears said that the College will also clarify information provided to students in the Social Event Management Procedures and provide concrete tools for student organizations hosting events, although she did not address specific changes Tuesday night.

The College will increase training for undergraduate advisers and community directors in hopes of reducing the prevalence of "pre-gaming" in residence halls, which is responsible for most incidents of unhealthy intoxication on campus, Spears said during the presentation. Spears also said the proposed position of "project manager and evaluation specialist," who would coordinate alcohol harm reduction resources across programs, will be filled Winter term.

Private donors have offered to pay for the expanded alcohol harm reduction and sexual assault prevention and education programs, Kim said during the press conference.

Revisions to SEMP, which Spears said will be disclosed in January, will focus on clarifying and simplifying policies and discouraging hard alcohol consumption, while encouraging adherence to College alcohol procedures, according to Spears.

"One thing we discovered both through the SEMP advisory committee, and the committee before that is that the biggest concerns around alcohol relate to hard alcohol," Spears said. "Some unintended consequences of the Social Event Management [Procedures], including long lines [for beer in fraternities], might push students towards pre-gaming, leading students to choose hard alcohol rather than beer."

Kim and Spears said they recognize that both high-risk drinking and sexual assault are "public health" issues that persist at Dartmouth.

Kim said Dartmouth is slightly above the national median for binge drinking, and the median "is frightening in and of itself."

"The issue is that although drinking among men has remained fairly constant, rates among young women binge drinking have skyrocketed," he said. "Also, there's been a definitive move from beer to hard liquor."

To address the College's goal of reducing instances of sexual assault of campus, Spears said that administrators would provide effective support, counseling and educational resources campus organizations. Spears said that endowed funds would go to support an enhanced dialogue about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses.

Undergraduate advisers and faculty will soon have access to a DVD, to be produced jointly by Safety and Security, the College Health Service and Hanover Police, that outlines "all the possible courses of action that an individual may take after instances of sexual assault," Presidential Fellow William Schpero '10 said at the presentation.

"The goal will be that it will be disseminated to UGAs, faculty, someone at the first point of contact, so individuals can go to the privacy of their own room and review their own options," Schpero said. "It will help put a face to the people who can provide help."

A "rights and responsibilities card," currently being developed by students with the pro bono help of local lawyer George Ostler '77, will help to minimize the "confusion and stigma concerning the relationships and interactions with town law enforcement," Max Yoeli '12, co-chair of SPAHRC, said.

"We're working together to put together a hand-out that clearly states what your rights are when you encounter law enforcement and what you are responsible for as a member of the Dartmouth community," Yoeli said.

Spears also announced the creation of a proposed peer-driven shuttle service. Students would be able to call the shuttle service to transport them around campus to increase their "sense of safety," Spears said.

A new College handbook outlining options for students affected by sexual assault, including legal actions, would also be made available. Other possible initiatives, including a sexual assault hotline and an evaluation of the College's Committee on Standards, will be refined between now and end of the December, Spears said.

"We can put programs, outreach, structures in place, but we're not with you at 2 a.m.," Spears said. "We need to look at what it means to walk our talk about our community here at Dartmouth and ensure that we're taking care of each other."

Several students attending the presentation, as well as committee leaders presenting, said they were generally pleased with the College's actions, and said they were aware of the gap between administrative policies and student initiative.

"I hope that long term, the administration is considering how to best to deal with imbalance of social spaces on campuses, and I'm hoping that SEMP changes have positive results so that they merit further alterations to current ineffective complex social management policies," Yoeli said.

Several other students, however, said they were disappointed at the lack of concrete details regarding the initiatives.

"It looks like there's a lot of potential in the future," Jason Goodman '12, who attended the presentation, said. "The details are what are really important, and there were very few details shared tonight. But that doesn't seem like the real intention of the meeting, which was to show they're working on it, and there's more to come. A lot remains to be done, clearly, on both of these issues, and [the administrators] know that and they expressed that tonight, and that's encouraging."

Inter-Fraternity Council President Tyler Brace '11 said the new initiatives will help improve student safety.

"The new recommendations are a great step towards promoting harm reduction and student responsibility," Brace said. "The emphasis on ensuring safety and access to help is critical, and hopefully the new measures will empower students to be more effective bystanders. Our wish is to foster a social environment based on safety and shared responsibility, and I think these new measures will go a long way in supporting that goal."

The College's alcohol policy has undergone considerable revision in response to student feedback since January 2003, when former Dean of the College Jim Larimore implemented SEMP to clarify alcohol regulations and event registration procedures, The Dartmouth previously reported.

Former Dean of Students Joe Cassidy chaired the first review committee to assess student opinion of SEMP in 2004, which resulted in the creation of a revised policy that included the categorization of members-only, open and closed events. Similar to current SEMP policy, closed events were subject to less regulation but were more restrictive in the amount of alcohol that could be served.

A second committee chaired by then-Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman reviewed SEMP beginning in 2007, ultimately producing the Alcohol Management Policy. The new policy would have given Greek organizations more discretion when hosting social events on campus, allowing houses to develop their own alcohol policies and management procedures within overarching College guidelines, The Dartmouth previously reported.

After bring revised by former Dean of the College Tom Crady, AMP was set to replace SEMP in August 2008, but AMP was left unfinished when Crady abruptly departed at the end of Summer 2009. One month later, Spears newly-instated as acting dean of the College announced that AMP would not become official College policy.

"I think that we need more evidence and information, so that [for] any new procedure or policy that we put in place we could be pretty confident it's going to result in the kind of outcomes that we hope for student organizations," Spears said in an interview with The Dartmouth at the time.

In Winter 2010, SPAHRC was formed in response to Hanover Police's announcement that they might implement "sting operations" in fraternities and sororities. Although the operations were suspended, the SPAHRC revision focused on student concerns regarding alcohol use, including an evaluation of the College's Good Samaritan Policy.

"That committee was probably one of the strongest partnerships I've seen between the administration and students working collectively to look at policies, collect data and come up with recommendations," Spears said at Tuesday's presentation.

SPAHRC, originally formed in Winter 2010, released its report in May, which was followed by an administrative review of the report's recommendations and similar programs implemented on campuses across the country.

SPAHRC recommended the development of a task force between the College and the Town of Hanover to facilitate "positive joint action" surrounding alcohol harm reduction and other issues, Spears said. Created in the Spring, the task force consists of students and representatives from Hanover Police, the College staff and the town, and has met during the Summer and Fall Terms, according to Spears.

Hanover Police's current policies when dealing with intoxicated students are detrimental to student safety, Kim said on Tuesday.

"I think the current approach of the Hanover Police Department is putting our students in danger every single night," he said.

The SPCSA was formed during the Summer and has conducted work throughout Fall term to provide another set of recommendations that analyzed other colleges' resources surrounding sexual assault, according to Spears. Recommendations were also reviewed by administrators, she said.

"Increasing awareness as it applies to sexual assault is important," Katie Lindsay '11, a member of SPCSA, said at the presentation. "We have a lot of information, and we want to make it as accessible as possible, so that it's not an additional stress for students, and that more information is available online and reaches as many people as possible."

Schpero is a former member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.