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Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014

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ACC continues efforts to address high-risk drinking

The University's Alcohol Coalition Committee (ACC) is continuing its work to address high-risk drinking among undergraduates.

The group, composed primarily of students but also including faculty and staff, was formed in 2007 and is guided by a strategic plan created in 2008.

This year, working groups are focusing on six strategic areas: reviewing the University's alcohol policy; assessing alcohol education for freshmen during pre-orientation and orientation; creating more opportunities for positive role modeling; dispelling myths about alcohol that influence student culture; examining Princeton alcohol-related data; and creating a Princeton-specific pre-matriculation tool.

Each working group is co-chaired by a student and a faculty or staff member. As ideas emerge from the working groups, conversations begin with the primary stakeholders of the issue being addressed to ensure good feedback and direction. Working group co-chairs also periodically report back to the full ACC, providing updates and the opportunity for the full group to give reactions and make suggestions.

"The working group model ensures transparency, campus participation and communication," said Amy Campbell, director of campus life initiatives and co-chair of the ACC with senior Chris Chandler. "It guarantees that once the final recommendation is made to the 'owners,' the potential issues or problems have been successfully resolved."

Last year, ACC working groups recommended a party registration process for "of-age" students that was implemented in the spring, reviewed commercially available online education programs, and recommended a pilot education program that was implemented during freshman orientation. The committee also published an informational booklet, "Just the Facts," and organized two large gatherings: a fall workshop, "The University's Alcohol Policy and Enforcement: What Works and What Doesn't," that was attended by more than 100 members of the University community; and a spring seminar, "High-Risk Drinking: Catalyzing a Culture Change," that attracted 130 participants from 17 schools. A copy of the ACC 2008-09 final report is posted online.

Maintaining the momentum of robust student participation is a high priority for Chandler. After he became co-chair last January, he held student-only ACC meetings so that undergraduates could more freely express their thoughts and ideas. These messages were then brought back for discussion with the entire group.

"The great thing about the student meetings is that they gave us a very casual atmosphere in which we could really focus on the issues that were most important to us as students, and then present those ideas and suggestions to the larger ACC group to be incorporated into our goals," Chandler said.

The "Just the Facts" booklet, which contains quick, accurate answers to frequently asked questions about alcohol, was updated this fall and distributed to freshmen early in the semester as part of conversations with residential college advisers. The booklet also is available online.

Another priority for this year will be determining how to measure success of the ACC and the recommendations that emerge from the working groups. The efforts of the data working group should assist in this assessment, according to Sanjeev Kulkarni, the first co-chair of the ACC.

"Issues related to assessment such as identifying, collecting and using data are very challenging but important for understanding and addressing the problem of high-risk drinking," said Kulkarni, a professor of electrical engineering and the master of Butler College.

Information about the ACC and its work will be posted regularly on the committee's website. The group's leadership also expects to continue its practice of meeting with stakeholders on campus and in the community and making presentations at meetings such as the Healthier Princeton Advisory Board.

The ACC is an initiative sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life. For more information, e-mail acc@princeton.edu.

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