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April 18, 2005

Students Emphasize Safety In Spring Weekend Plans

UConn students are planning a Take Back Spring Weekend program and several new activities to encourage students to be responsible on spring weekend, which will be held this year on April 21-24.

The Take Back Spring Weekend program emphasizes that students can celebrate their accomplishments without the risks posed by over-indulgence in alcohol and having outsiders come to campus to wreak havoc.

The program began with a pep rally in the Student Union Lobby on April 13 that was attended by nearly 500 students. The rally, planned by students for students, was intended to raise awareness of the risks of a rowdy spring weekend and allowed students to identify what they would like out of the weekend.

The rally encouraged students to take responsibility for themselves and their guests on spring weekend, and urged them to exercise “prevention behaviors” to ensure a safe and healthy weekend.

The rally featured wrist bands that students are being asked to wear during spring weekend. The bands indicate that the wearer is a UConn student or a guest of a UConn student, not an outsider.

Non-UConn students – some from as far away as New Jersey and others barely in high school – have flocked to spring weekends in the past, and a majority of the people arrested each year have been non-UConn students.

“Students would like spring weekend to focus on UConn students,” says Thomas Szigethy, director of alcohol and other drug education and services. “They want to discourage outsiders from coming here, and they want students to work to keep each other safe.”

This year, students also will have the opportunity to sign pledges that commit them to safe behavior over the weekend. Students who sign the pledges will be entered into a raffle to win prizes sponsored by the Bacchus and Gamma Peer Education Network, UConn chapter. Bacchus and Gamma is an international association of college and university-based peer education programs focusing on alcohol abuse prevention and other student-related health and safety issues.

The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) is also planning to provide students with T-shirts, “survival packets,” and other items printed with messages reminding students to focus on safe behaviors, and a newsletter talking about the risks during spring weekend and ways students can protect themselves.

The weekend will feature a concert on Saturday night and food, including barbecue and a submarine sandwich. New this year will be the BAC program – a program designed to increase awareness and education about Blood Alcohol Content. The program will be conducted in front of dining halls during the week of spring weekend.

“We are pleased that more than 30 students are involved in planning spring weekend this year,” says Szigethy, “and that students have come up with creative ways to remind other students to stay safe.”

The student cable television station has been running programming on substance abuse during April and will present a program on spring weekend prevention efforts, and Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity will host a 5K run on April 23 to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.

In addition, Student Health Services is training 60 nursing students to identify alcohol poisoning. Those who have been trained will help students in residence halls to get medical attention.

UConn and State Police are coordinating efforts to reduce drunk driving, and are planning a number of sobriety checkpoints on local roads, as well as mobile Driving Under the Influence patrols.