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Money well spent?

The Trustee Initiative on Alcohol Abuse has been a key part of campus life this year, bringing with it an aggressive and well-funded campaign to reduce binge drinking at Princeton.

But even after the trustees allocated $100,000 to fund non-alcoholic social events, opinions remain mixed on whether the initiative is succeeding in accomplishing its twin objectives — to create social alternatives to drinking and to end alcohol abuse on campus.


University Board of Trustees president Robert Rawson '66 said the alternative events are an integral part of the trustees' effort to end abusive drinking. "We would like people to understand that binge drinking has no place as part of the social scene, and it should be dealt with in moderation," he said.

The most high-profile of these alternate events was Jon Stewart's performance in Dillon Gym, which administrators deemed a success.

"If you look at the turnout for that event, it certainly shows that there is a willingness for students to diversify their social patterns," Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne said.

But some students were more skeptical about whether the initiative truly made inroads in Princeton's social culture or succeeded in reducing binge drinking.

"One-night events aren't going to change the whole social atmosphere," Butler College RA Jon Kent-Uritam '00 said. "It's a good activity, but I don't know if it really provides a scene. It doesn't by itself create a new social atmosphere."

Aime Scott '01, an RA in Mathey College, said she believes students would not criticize the initiative if they really thought about how it had affected them. "Nothing has been done to stop people from drinking, only stuff has been done to supplement what's there," she said.


Though some students may not yet be seeing concrete results, Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan encouraged patience. "I think it would be unrealistic if the goals were to transform the culture at Princeton," she said. "That was never the goal. The goal was to make everybody own the problem — not just some set of administrators."

Nevertheless, some remain skeptical about whether the initiative's goal of eradicating alcohol abuse on campus was realistic.

"The initiative technically is trying to limit drinking — and it is not. In that sense it has to be somewhat of a failure," Mathey College RA Henley Holmes '00 said. "I'm not really sure they're ever going to affect the drinking patterns of the average Princeton student."

Another aspect of the trustees' effort to curb binge drinking has been the implementation of more severe penalties for alcohol-related violations. Under the new policy, the first serving or procuring alcohol violation — which before this year earned students a dean's warning — is now punishable by three months probation.

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The second violation results in nine months probation and 50 hours of campus service and the third violation leads to suspension from the University.

Bishop Frederick Borsch '57, chair of the Trustee Committee on Student Life, Health and Athletics, said he is pleased with the new disciplinary rules. "I think more attention has been paid to such things as where alcohol is being served on campus," he said.

Rockefeller College RA Brett Sedgewick '01 said he does not believe the tougher penalties have had any effect on campus drinking. "I think it's foolish to think that imposing people with a stiffer fine is going to stop them from drinking," he said. "You have to get at the root of the problem."

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Marianne Waterbury, however, said the administration was not expecting the new rules to bring dramatic changes, especially in the first year.

"Nobody ever thought that the penalties alone would change the whole culture of excessive drinking," Waterbury said. "It seems to me if the only thing you do is impose rules, it's a sure invitation for people to break them."

Despite student criticism, Rawson maintained the initiative would continue. "I think the most important thing is that we don't intend to diminish the dedication to making the initiative work," he said.

Borsch said the trustees will consider allocating an even larger sum for the upcoming academic year to support additional alternate activities. "I don't think that's by any means out of the question," he said.