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University abandons hard-liquor ban; begins search for new alternatives

By AbMargulis
On September 14, 2012

Last year, many students at DePauw lived up to the university's "Top Party School Ranking."
The result was at least 21 students transported to Putnam County Hospital for high BACs and over 100 incidents of intoxicated students with Public Safety officers.
DePauw's social life has turned into a high-risk alcohol scene.
Last spring, the university took action by creating a new alcohol policy banning hard liquor from registered fraternity events. But after much disapproval from students, the university lifted the ban and is now discussing new measures to slow down high-risk drinking at DePauw.
The alcohol collaborative group, chaired by Vice-President of Student Life Cindy Babington, features students and faculty working to develop initiatives to address high-risk drinking. The group will introduce initiatives to combat high-level intoxication and study those issues through data feedback to critically evaluate whether they are making an impact.
The policy stated that if hard alcohol was served at a registered event and policy violations came to the university's attention then the sanction would be more stringent than if other types of violations occurred. Additionally, individuals would be sanctioned more harshly for using hard alcohol as opposed to beer or wine.
After the alcohol collaborative group received negative feedback from fraternity and sorority presidents and DePauw Student Government, the group reconvened.
Students in these organizations felt like there could be a better way to create a safer alcohol scene on campus.
In recent years, the university has continued to become more concerned with students drinking hard alcohol, leading to more black outs. More alcohol comsumption has put students into increasingly dangerous situations.
BACk Down, a group of seven students, was formed over the summer to meet weekly to discuss creative solutions to DePauw's high BAC levels.
DSG President Sara Scully defined the group's mission.
"It's us collaborating to form initiatives and create creative solutions to protect students' safety while still continuing our engaging social atmosphere," Scully said.
The group was formed for many reasons, one of which being the high number of BAC levels being over .3 percent.
Greek Life Coordinator P.J. Mitchell, who helped spearhead the group, sees BACk Down as a necessary group to have on campus.
"Our campus was heading towards a ledge [with the high BAC levels and hospital runs], and we want to push back against it before it goes too far," Mitchell said.
The group protects student safety by keep students from crossing the dangerous line of alcohol comsumption at DePauw's social scene.
Some members of the group include seniors Sara Scully, Mark Fadel, Emily Vierk, Jonathan Rosario, Tyler Witherspoon, junior Paul Mpistolarides and sophomore Eric St. Bernard.
In the past three meetings, two ideas have been discussed and plan to be implemented.
The first is a talk with freshmen that will happen next week. The group discussed having upperclassmen come talk with freshman about proper greek etiquette at fraternities when attending registered events. It is planned to be a question and answer session for freshmen to gather more understanding for what it means to go out onto greek property and what it means to be safe.
The second idea generated is to provide more food for students when they go out. The Hub closes at midnight, only leaving Marvin's in direct walking distance for students.
There has also been talk amongst a variety of students about the university allowing kegs if they are to ban hard alcohol.
Scully and Fadel are skeptical about allowing kegs for fear of how students would use them. The group is open to gathering feedback from students about ideas to help regulate the growing trend of binge drinking, and BACk Down will continue to meet weekly throughout the rest of the school year to discuss ways to deter drinking in excess.
They will be tracking progress through data showing the number of hospital runs, extreme BAC levels over .3 percent, average BAC levels, number of drinks students have in a night and what type of drinks those are.
The group provides students to have important conversations for what their expectations for each other are socially, and it is ultimately working towards creating an environment without putting students at risk, Mitchell said.
BACk Down is only one project on DePauw's campus to take initiatives towards creating a safer student community socially. DePauw is part of the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking, giving them the opportunity to share ideas with 32 other universities working towards a similar goal.
Through this collaborative, other programs have been developed such as the CATS program, a paid sober monitor and peer education program. Another program is BASICS, a more effective individual alcohol-screening tool and an extension of the program for student-athletes alcohol presentations.
BACk Down and these other projects let the university find different approaches to help the community become safer. 


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