Task Force Suggests Ways To
The President's Task Force on Substance Abuse submitted to President Philip E. Austin last week more than 50 recommendations designed to reduce alcohol consumption on the UConn campus.
The recommendations "will provide for a healthier and safer environment for all and this will lead to a stronger institution that can better meet its educational and social mission," the task force report says.
Included in the recommendations are suggestions for actions by the University administration, faculty, staff, students, and parents, and for efforts that can be undertaken in partnership with the community.
The task force, headed by John DeWolf, professor of engineering, was named by Austin late last fall to present practical, workable recommendations to deal with substance abuse at the University.
"The problems at the University are not substantially different from those at most other higher education institutions," DeWolf said. "There are many efforts already underway at UConn to deal with substance abuse, but there is more to do. The ultimate solution to the problem requires that responsibility be shared among students and their parents, faculty, administrators, and the Mansfield community."
DeWolf noted that many positive things are happening on campus already, including efforts to educate students about alcohol, programs to help them cope with substance abuse problems, and enforcement of underage drinking laws. Supplementing those efforts can, over time, be successful, he said.
The 24-member task force included students, faculty, staff, police, a faculty member from the Health Center whose research focuses on substance abuse, the UConn Parents Association, and representatives of E.O. Smith High School in Mansfield and the Town of Mansfield. The group solicited valuable input and suggestions from a number of outside experts including James Fleming, commissioner of consumer protection, the Connecticut department with jurisdiction over the sale of alcohol in Connecticut, and Diane Harnad, director of prevention services in the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. In addition, extensive research was done to collect information about successful programs in use at other colleges around the country. Special meetings were held with various student groups.
"This is a thoughtful, well-targeted report," said President Philip E. Austin. "I accept the Task Force's basic findings and I will review the specific recommendations with great care over the next several weeks.
"My goal in appointing this task force was to develop a clear set of practical responses to a problem that exists at UConn and at institutions around the country," he added. "This report fulfills that charge. It gives us a valuable road map, as we expand our efforts to protect the safety of our students and the quality of campus life."
The recommendations offer both short- and long-term approaches to the issues of substance abuse.
Although the Task Force found no simple solutions to the problems related to substance abuse, many of the recommendations - including increased enforcement, better coordination with town authorities, provision of alternative activities, and a marketing campaign - have been effective at other schools and will be used here, the report says.
"The problems associated with substance abuse are pervasive on college campuses across the nation," the report notes. "The most effective (prevention) programs consist of a campus-community coalition including students, faculty, administrators, and key constituency group representatives, combined with dedicated prevention staff," the report says.
One recommendation not found in the report is the notion of establishing UConn as a dry campus. The task force rejected this idea, saying it could lead to a spate of new problems, including increased incidences of drunk driving.
"Underage drinking, and all its tragic consequences is not the problem of any single school, police department or government agency," said Fleming. "This is a community-wide problem and that's what this task force is all about."
The recommendations of the Task Force include: