Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Name is Nittany Lion and I'm an Alcoholic

The first step toward recovery from an alcohol problem is admitting that you have an alcohol problem. Let's see if we can find such an admission in this press release announcing a new partnership between Penn State and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board ostensibly targeting Penn State's drinking problem.

University Park, Pa. -- Penn State will launch a nearly $600,000 program to aggressively target the increasing national dangerous-drinking problem that is having a detrimental impact on its students.[Nope. No admission that that it is a Penn State Problem here. It just a national problem.]

The unique program,[Graham is fond of claiming things that he does are unique, even when they aren't.] funded by Penn State with assistance from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), will be in addition to other significant steps Penn State launched starting a decade ago in attempt to keep students safe from a dangerous drinking problem that is growing nationwide.[There's that nationwide problem causing problems for Penn State again.]

"There is a pervasive culture of dangerous drinking in Happy Valley,[We are getting closer to home, but still no admission that it is a Penn State problem.] and our community is paying an enormous price as many lives are lost or changed forever as a result of alcohol overdose, alcohol-related accidents, bar fights and drunken driving crashes. The tragic consequences -- which include alcohol related deaths -- are staggering and heart-wrenching," said Vicky Triponey, vice president for student affairs at Penn State.

"This initiative, combined with other significant steps Penn State has taken in recent years,[You can find a list of everything Penn State has done from 1984 through 1999 here; it includings partnering with the PLCB in 1998. Still there is a problem. Shouldn't one conclude at this point that Spanier has failed to deal with this problem?] is an indication how serious we think this problem is within our community," said Triponey. "This is a national problem; it is a problem that exists in every community. [There we go again. These guys really have trouble admitting that they have a problem.]It is a problem that typically begins for most students in high school and continues into adulthood. But it is a problem for which Penn State will leverage its research capability, its substance-abuse expertise and its years of experience with this issue to develop even bolder approaches to confront the problem and create a healthier environment."[This looks close to an admission of a problem, but it misses the mark. Short version:They were drunks when they matriculated, but we'll straighten them out.]

The Penn State Commission for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) will administer the initiative, which is being funded by nearly $344,000 from the University, along with a grant of $250,000 from the PLCB. The grant will be used to implement substance abuse prevention initiatives at 20 Penn State undergraduate campuses.

"This initiative is the first of its kind [Even the PLCB chairman is taking up the uniqueness talk.] between the PLCB and a statewide university system, and it is an important advancement in our mission to prevent underage and high-risk drinking," said PLCB Chairman Patrick "PJ" Stapleton. "This study will have an unprecedented impact by helping to educate more than 80,000 college students [And he decide not to point out that those 80.000 college students are all at Penn State.] about the harmful effects of alcohol. It will also help to prevent long-term alcohol misuse."

Throughout the three-year grant period, CSAP will provide training opportunities and resources for campus representatives on proven, effective strategies to address substance abuse. In addition, a social norms campaign will be developed for all campuses using campus-specific data obtained through the National College Health Assessment that will be administered during the grant period.

"We are very excited that this PLCB funding will provide us with increased resources and opportunities to address high risk drinking at all our Penn State campuses," [This is about as close to an admission as we get that Penn State has a problem.]said Susan Kennedy, associate director for educational services at University Health Services and primary investigator for the project.

The grant proposal includes funding for a full-time community health educator, who will be responsible for the grant implementation and will guide campuses through the assessment, strategic planning and implementation processes. This staff member will serve as the liaison with the PLCB and ensure the grant objectives are being met.

A decade ago Penn State President Graham Spanier was one of the first university leaders in the nation to speak out about the huge impact dangerous drinking was having on college students. [One of the first. Why of course, but he didn't talk about Penn State's unique problem. Rather, it is a generic problem for college students.] Since that time Penn State has launched a number of programs to address the issue, a number of which have served as models for other college campuses. [As I wrote above these programs didn't actually do much to solve the problem. The reason other schools have adopted them, if any in fact did, is likely because of their PR value.]

The CSAP is an advisory group to Triponey. The group's mission is to foster an environment that does not support the abuse of alcohol, tobacco or other substances. Its membership consists of students, faculty, staff and administrators.

The PLCB is an independent state agency that manages the alcohol beverage industry in Pennsylvania. Using funds derived from the revenues of its Wine & Spirits stores, it regularly awards grants to study and prevent alcohol abuse.

The $600,000 is a big pot of money which could be used to some good effect. My guess is that for Old Main this is about appearing to do something, while in fact kicking the (beer) can down the road.

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