Faculty Senate weighs in on alcohol plan


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As University of Iowa faculty members thumbed through their copies of the school's Alcohol Harm Reduction Plan at Tuesday's Faculty Senate meeting, several members expressed concern about how university officials intend to successfully implement the plan.

Susan Assouline — chair of the committee charged with creating the plan — presented the information to the faculty senate and addressed a few concerns.

The plan, released Tuesday, is a comprehensive guide to decreasing the UI's binge-drinking rates by 15 percent in the next three years. The plan states roughly 70 percent of UI students have participated in high-risk drinking in the past two weeks, compared to 33 percent nationally.

The plan lists four goals to help achieve the goals.

Though no faculty senator spoke out against the plan, some said they are unsure of a few aspects, including the success of curriculum changes.

As part of Goal 2 — which focuses on helping more students remain low-risk drinkers at the UI — officials call for increasing the number of students in Friday classes. Though faculty endorsed the idea last spring, some were skeptical Tuesday night.

Merely scheduling more classes on Fridays is far from a guarantee students will attend, said Faculty Senate member and history Professor Katherine Tachau, and faculty shouldn't be held responsible for such absences.

But students can expect to see a continued increase in the number of classes offered on Friday.

Roughly 550 classes will take place before noon on Friday next semester. Despite calls for more Friday classes, that number has dropped slightly in recent years — by five since last spring and by 10 since the previous year.

In addition to Friday classes' potential effect, Faculty Senate President Ed Dove said the students' level of engagement in academics should be further discussed.

"Faculty need to make sure students are academically challenged," he said.

Though Senate members also discussed concerns about how to approach greek-life drinking and the lack of medical representation on the alcohol committee, some said they were pleased with the UI's results so far.

Stacked against the Big Ten, the UI doesn't fare well, Assouline said. The closest comparative school is the University of Wisconsin, which reports that nearly 60 percent of its students participate in high-risk drinking.

Dove saw the plan as a positive move toward changing the university's culture and attracting different kinds of students.

"I think it's a great step," said Faculty Senate member and psychology Associate Professor Bob McMurray. "It's good to see the university be proactive."

Though the 21-ordinance has had an effect on the UI's drinking culture, he said, he agreed the university needed to continue its own efforts.

For now, Dove is confident about the success of the plan.

"If faculty are serious about reducing harmful drinking, then they need to support the plan," he said.

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