UI, Iowa City hold binge drinking confab

BY TESSA McLEAN | MARCH 27, 2009 7:35 AM

Some local officials plan to F.A.C. today — by focusing on alcohol consumption.

In yet another effort to curb binge drinking in the community, representatives from the UI and Iowa City will meet today in a series of sessions on how to combat excessive drinking.

More than 70 community members — including local business owners and city and university officials — were invited to attend the event, which is not open to the public. The summit is under the auspices of the Partnership for Alcohol Safety, a new alliance formed by the university and Iowa City to address binge drinking among students.

“We want to bring together key university people and key community members and introduce each other,” said Tom Rocklin, the UI interim vice president for Student Services. “We hope to leave the afternoon with specific objectives and priorities.”

In January, the university hired Mary Stier as its anti-binge-drinking consultant. UI Provost Wallace Loh employed the 52-year-old UI alumna to work with school officials and students in coming up with a strategy to deal with binge drinking. Stier is receiving $25,000 — funded through the UI Foundation — for seven months of work.

Stier, who will attend the summit, said her efforts so far have been successful, but there is a lot more to be done.

“We have had some really great initial conversations,” she said. “We are going to be doing a lot more in April and May.”

The UI already has many anti-binge-drinking efforts in place. Incoming freshmen are required to complete AlcoholEdu for College, an online alcohol education and prevention program, which the university began in July 2006.

Earlier this month, the university won the Prevention Excellence Award from Outside the Classroom — the company that developed the AlcoholEdu program — for the third year. Only 10 schools receive the award. This fall, 99 percent of freshmen at the UI completed the program.

UI freshman Lauren Dovalina said she thinks AlcoholEdu is a good idea and forums such as today’s summit should be open to students.

“There is only so much they can do about the drinking problem,” the nursing major said. “I think they should make more alternatives to drinking.”

Stier has formed four separate groups — of students, parents, faculty, staff, and Iowa City community members — to assist her in creating a strategy.

The priorities identified during the sessions will be submitted to a steering committee, which will meet after the summit to discuss how to put them into action, Rocklin said.

Angela Reams, a Student Health counselor who is responsible for leading AlcoholEdu at the UI, said the course is only one of many alcohol-related programs available to UI freshmen.

“We all know that alcohol is an issue,” she said. “We can all work together on making a healthier and safer environment so our students can be successful.”

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