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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Drug, alcohol committee formed following Pachanga events

Published: November 5, 2010
Section: Front Page

University President Jehuda Reinharz this week announced a new Alcohol and Drug Policy Committee composed of students, faculty, staff and administrators to review and analyze alcohol abuse in the community.

The announcement came after Pachanga, a dance held in Levin Ballroom on Oct. 23. As a result of drinking in residence halls before the dance, 17 students required medical treatment for alcohol poisoning. Nine of them were transported to local area hospitals.

“Although we are all aware of recent campus incidents that raised concerns about student alcohol consumption and the resultant health risks, this policy review will be forward-looking and broad-based, touching on many aspects of campus life,” Reinharz wrote in an e-mail to students.

Professor Len Saxe (Heller) will chair the committee. Prior to his work as a Professor of Jewish Community Research and Social Policy, he did extensive work in psychology and wrote a study for Congress on government’s role in treating alcohol abuse.

Saxe said that while he is aware of the incidents that took place the weekend of Pachanga, the committee has much broader objectives.

“My [job] is not to do a review of the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd,” Saxe said.

Saxe said that his work gives him experience at bringing “the use of alcohol and the polices to the attention of the entire community.”

Other members of the committee include Dr. Debra Poaster from the Health Center, Seth Merker ’11, Director and Clinical Supervisor of BEMCo, Ed Callahan, Director of Public Safety, and Jamele Adams, Associate Dean of Student Life.

Reinharz wrote that staff and doctoral students from the Heller School’s Institute for Behavioral Health will assist with research for the committee. He said he has asked the committee to turn in recommendations this semester.

“Our goal is to ensure that Brandeis, consistent with its value-based mission, has policies to assure the safety of all students and an environment that promotes learning and growth,” Reinharz wrote.

President of the Student Union Daniel Acheampong wrote in an e-mail to the student body Thursday night that students should be aware of the support systems the university provides to students.

“The events of that night have not changed the culture of care in this community,” he wrote. “Students should continue to be involved and enjoy this campus. Moreover, know that the same people and resources that were called upon before are still there to support you.”

Health officials across the country have recently become alarmed about the dangerous effects of an alcoholic beverage called Four Loko, a drink that contains the alcohol content of multiple drinks with caffeine.

Merker explained that “it allows the BAC [blood alcohol content] to rise without feeling the effects” because of the opposite effects of alcohol and caffeine that take place once the two drugs are consumed.

Saxe said that he was aware of the recent warnings about drinks such as Four Loko and acknowledged that the problems Brandeis faces regarding alcohol use and abuse are not unique to the university but occur at campuses across the country.

When asked about the conflict of educating under-age students about the need to drink responsibly and safely because of the already established drinking culture on college campuses, Saxe explained that there needs to be a balance.

“The fact that it’s difficult [to educate students about safe drinking] doesn’t mean that we can’t do it and shouldn’t do it.”

But, regarding the drinking age, he added, “that is the policy. That is the law of the land.”