September 23, 2003

Coalition Meets to Discuss Alcohol

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Institutions of higher learning in Tompkins County have identified collegiate alcohol abuse as the cause of numerous quality of life violations and have teamed up to construct a plan that would minimize local alcohol-related violations.

The Campus-Community Coalition of Tompkins County, comprised of administrative, local, and law enforcement representation from Cornell University, Ithaca College (IC), Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3), the Ithaca Police Department (IPD), the Ithaca Common Council and local businesses convened yesterday evening to begin developing strategies that address problematic situations involving student alcohol abuse.

In addition to local representatives, coalition leaders invited the input of representatives from the Syracuse Area College Community Coalition to last night’s meeting. In an informal presentation and a question-and-answer format, Laura Madelone, director of off-campus student services at Syracuse University, and Chief Wesley Bird, of the Syracuse University Dept. of Public Safety, described their twelve-point initiative, recently implemented by University administration and law enforcement to curtail the dangers and inconveniences that result from collegiate alcohol abuse.

Developed by the University’s office of off-campus services, “The Twelve-Point Plan for Substance Abuse Prevention and Health Enhancement,” is a multi-faceted endeavor that addresses problems associated with alcohol in a number of relevant arenas. The program, which was nationally recognized by the U.S. Dept. of Education in 2000, is comprehensive in its approach to student alcohol consumption and acts on alcohol abuse in capacities such as student lead initiatives, curriculum infusion, and heightened law and judicial enforcement.

One area of the twelve-step program that received a considerable amount of attention at last night’s meeting was the University’s Neighborhood Safety Patrol. This nightly police patrol was established in 1999 to maintain the quality of life in off-campus neighborhoods by regulating unruly, disruptive and illegal student behavior, oftentimes largely associated with alcohol abuse. Another approach implemented by the University to address the status quo of student alcohol consumption is an on line survey taken by entering freshman to assess the nature of their pre-collegiate drinking habits and to offer risk-prevention information to students, parents and faculty.

“We use the test to collect [University-specific alcohol] statistics and as a tool to educate faculty, staff and parents,” explained Madelone, who underscored the test’s tendency to shock parents and faculty with the level of adolescent drinking it reveals.

Syracuse University’s initiative has also persuaded nearby taverns and bars to strictly comply with the legal drinking age and to assume responsibility for the intoxication of minors.

Referring to the quantity of fake IDs retrieved from minors attempting to get into Syracuse bars, Bird simply commented, “The fake I.D. is a big, big problem out there — huge.”

Problems associated with fake I.D.s have received serious scrutiny in Ithaca as well. Leigh Ulrich ‘ 91, owner of Rulloff’s Restaurant and Bar in

Collegetown, attended last night’s meeting, and referring to her bar’s newly instituted policy of I.D.-scanning, said, “The scanner has helped a huge amount. Once someone [who is underage] knows that you have a scanner, it decreases the pressure of even trying to get in.”

While Syracuse University’s comprehensive program demonstrated heightened efficacy in alcohol law enforcement, Madeolone admitted that student support for the initiative has not been unanimous and is demonstratively pendant on the level of support received by the acting student assembly.

“There are those [students] that think we are working with them and those that think we are working against them,” she said. “It ultimately depends on who is leading our S.A. and how cooperative the assembly is with us.”

Nick Linder ‘ 05, president of the Cornell Student Assembly, agreed that student leadership and involvement is crucial to achieving student support and cooperation for such endeavors.

“When the administration appears heavy-handed, [their policies] don’t work,” he said. “Student involvement in this issue is very important.”

Gary Stewart, Assistant Director of Government and Community Relations at Cornell, agreed that student input and leadership would be necessary in the implementation of any effective alcohol regulation strategy at Cornell.

“We have to be more creative with our outreach to students,” he said, underscoring the importance of student input. “The coalition cannot exist without many voices from many students.”

Archived article by Ellen Miller