November 10, 2011

By Pete Mackey

Recent Daily Item editorials seem to be inviting Bucknell to an unnecessary dance — you invent something for print, and then we have to correct the record with accurate information. The latest is Tuesday's editorial about underage drinking.

We distributed a press release about a small grant we received as part of an effort by the Commonwealth to help reduce underage and binge drinking, and you use it to publish an editorial demanding we do more to confront these problems. It's a bit like concluding that because our football team played Saturday, we don't have any other sports. Except in this case the topic is much more serious, because underage and binge drinking are health problems facing not only our community, but communities across the country.

The Daily Item is a valuable community news resource, and we want to support your goal of providing accurate and complete information. We would be happy to provide the facts if given the chance of even the simplest inquiry.

This brief summary of the University's many efforts to reduce underage and binge drinking, most of which is also available on our website, provides a fuller picture that the editorial might have drawn upon for your readers:

  • In fall 2010, President John Bravman commissioned a year-long study of our campus climate from a committee of faculty and staff. He released the report to the campus two months ago, and we have had numerous campus forums and discussions on the topic, including students' drinking habits, since, including two forums with more than 700 students each and numerous other small conversations involving faculty, students and staff that are part of an intense focus we are bringing to such matters. 
  • This spring, Bucknell joined Dartmouth College and 31 other leading universities in a new national collaborative effort to understand and address high-risk drinking on college campuses. This initiative, the first of its kind, will allow every member institution, including Bucknell, to identify and evaluate common issues related to excessive alcohol consumption and share ideas for solving related problems on and around campuses. 
  • Starting in fall 2010, we began requiring all first-year students to participate in an online alcohol-awareness program called This program educates students about the risks associated with drinking and overconsumption. 
  • This fall, our Dean of Students sent personalized letters to the parents of every student about the dangers of drinking in college and provided them with an important online resource on how to discuss these issues with their children, because we recognize that parents can have a huge influence on their children's college behavior. 
  • The University years ago implemented a special fund for student-created social events and programs that provide vibrant alternatives to parties with alcohol. This fall, the president increased the funding available for this purpose. The student-created events offered because of this fund are in addition to the multiple activities created by our Office of Campus Activities and Programs.
  • The University years ago implemented the Transition to College program, a six-week course required of all first-year students that educates them in making wise choices as college students, including about time management, dietary habits, and the risks of alcohol. 
  • The University years ago implemented a comprehensive points system that encourages responsible student behavior, including penalties for underage drinking that can result in a student's expulsion — and has. 
  • The University works closely with Lewisburg government, law enforcement and business leadership to reduce underage drinking and its impact on the community that we are proud to call our home.

As we all know, underage and binge drinking are difficult challenges to address, and no one anywhere has found a magic secret for solving them. The Daily Item and we nevertheless agree that it is important to meet these challenges head on. This summary suggests the seriousness with which Bucknell takes the high-risk use of alcohol, of which the grant you mentioned is only one important part.

Printed in The Daily Item, Oct. 28, 2011



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