Bloomsburg University is a strong element in the small college town of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Over 7,300 students are enrolled at the University, while the population of the town is a mere 12,000. Bloomsburg is the largest community in Columbia County.
Like many universities, Bloomsburg has had a history of alcohol-related problems. During the 1990s, a series of serious incidents made it clear that underage drinking and other dangerous drinking practices were taking a toll on Bloomsburg University and the surrounding community.
Following these incidents, both the university and the town began to address underage and dangerous drinking with new determination. For example, the university implemented stricter alcohol policies, including a no-keg policy for student parties and a zero-tolerance policy on hazing. The town increased enforcement efforts and hundreds of students were cited for underage drinking at parties between 1994 and 1997. However, the town and university were acting separately.
Recognizing the need for a more comprehensive effort, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) contacted representatives from the town of Bloomsburg and Bloomsburg University about joining together to create a campus-community coalition. The coalition would serve as a model for similar collaborations throughout Pennsylvania and the nation.
The focus of the Bloomsburg Initiative has been University students and their parents, particularly first-year students and those involved in Greek life or athletics, as well as the students and parents of the Bloomsburg Area School District.
The Bloomsburg Initiative was established to bring the community and campus together in their efforts towards reducing alcohol-related problems both on campus and in the community. The mission of the Bloomsburg Initiative is “Promoting Safety Around the Use of Alcohol.”
The ABC’s role in the Initiative was to serve as the consultant to:
While the PLCB offered guidance and financial support, the Initiative was successful because it was community-driven and had the support of top-level officials.
Bloomsburg University’s President and the town of Bloomsburg’s Mayor were both actively involved in the formation of the Initiative. Members of the taskforce represented a wide cross section of the campus and the community, including:
The Initiative identified the alcohol prevention, intervention, education and enforcement programs already in existence in the town and the University and determined if they wanted to expand those programs in other parts of the community.
The Initiative’s first step was to gather data to assess the problem. Surveys were conducted on campus and results were compared to similar state and national data. Reports were submitted from local and University law enforcement, hospitals, residence halls and other appropriate sources. Meetings were held to discuss members’ concerns. Examples of these concerns include:
These concerns became recurring themes throughout the needs assessment.
In response, the University implemented programs to address issues regarding alcohol use and abuse, particularly concerning underage drinking.
The Bloomsburg Initiative also focused on how licensees work with the community, through law enforcement, prevention and education to deter underage drinking and enforce the underage drinking laws.
The Bloomsburg Initiative formed several committees to address the needs assessment. Each committee was co-chaired by a townsperson and a university employee. The co-chairs’ responsibilities were to:
The Initiative was governed by the steering committee that studied reports from the subcommittees and addressed any needs. The steering committee provided guidance for the Initiative.
The steering committee included:
Subcommittee co-chairs submitted recommendations to the steering committee. The steering committee approved projects and budgets.
The responsibilities of the media/public relation’s coordinator included:
The main objective of the alternative activities committee was to organize and provide alcohol-free activities for University and high school students. Some of these activities included First Night® Bloomsburg ’99, alcohol-free events at licensed establishments and a car wash.
This committee was established to provide facts and resources to promote responsible decision-making. A few of the resources they have utilized in this effort include Alcohol 101, DAWN video library and a SADD puppet program.
The Enforcement Awareness Community Intervention committee was established to increase awareness and intervention through enforcement and prevention efforts. Two such efforts included Cops in Shops‚ and the MinorChecker.
This committee was created to develop and implement projects to raise funds and identify grants for the continuance of the Initiative and for various projects.
Like any project, the Bloomsburg Initiative encountered a few obstacles:
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of all involved parties, the Bloomsburg Initiative brought about many favorable outcomes. Although no formal evaluation was conducted, one positive outcome was the development of relationships between members of the coalition. The collaboration enabled the project to reach a wider audience and therefore made a far stronger impact.
Through events like the non-alcoholic dances, alcohol/health education conferences and the SADD puppet programs, students from elementary school through college were able to work together. Not only did this build the community, it also changed students’ perspectives of one another, as the older students became role models for the younger students.
Licensees and law enforcement were able to work together towards a common goal and improve their image and the community simultaneously. Similarly, college students were able to improve their image and gain leadership skills as they worked with faculty, community members and the Bloomsburg Area School District students through many Initiative events and projects.
Students, parents and the community at large became more informed about alcohol issues and a new alcohol education program was developed for alcohol policy offenders at Bloomsburg University. The community experienced renewed confidence in the University and the University regained the support of its community.
Lastly, the Bloomsburg Police Department, which has been very active since the inception of the campus-community coalition, began to see an impact on student behavior in the town of Bloomsburg. They credited this change to increased enforcement and programs such as Cops in Shops“, “which were initiated as part of the campus-community coalition.”
The Bloomsburg Initiative spearheaded a project that provides a standard educational program to more than 1,000 University students per semester. Alcohol 101 was presented in the fall to all 600 students enrolled in Psychology 101. The program was also presented to students in the Biology Department’s nutrition course, to students enrolled in Chemistry and the Citizen and to all students referred to the Drug & Alcohol Awareness Network office for mandated alcohol education (approximately 200 students each semester). Additionally, The Alcohol 101 program was used in a class on alcohol that is taught in the Nursing Department. Data from Alcohol 101 pre- and post-testing was used in the development of other programs.
The Century Council in partnership with the University of Illinois, at Urbana-Champaign developed Alcohol 101, an interactive CD-ROM educational computer program. Alcohol 101 contains a pre and post-test and provides educational information. Information includes:
The CD-ROM is available free of charge from the Century Council. (See CD-ROM – Appendix U)
A second project that was created and produced by the Bloomsburg Initiative was “Gravity Hill,” a theatrical presentation about teen life in the community. The presentation concludes with a workshop and small group discussion designed to raise issues and foster debate on how drugs and alcohol are involved in the lives of teens, their families, their schools and their communities. The play is considered documentary theater because it was based on actual taped interviews with young people across the community. The fundamental question in the interviews was “How do you spend your free time?” The production weaves music, humor and the realities faced by teens into a format that is both entertaining and relevant. (See CD-ROM – Appendix V)
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