By Bill Campbell
Special to Intercom
Twenty campus-community coalitions have been established at University locations throughout the state as part of the Penn State-Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Partnership against alcohol and drug abuse.
"The coalitions have begun organizing and developing action plans," Kathleen D. Matason, chair of the Commission for the Prevention of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Abuse, said at the group's open forum Sept. 2 at University Park.
Matason said the commission is looking at various ways of providing training for the coalitions, with one program tentatively scheduled for Nov. 19 and 20, in an effort to develop a sense of community in addressing the problems associated with alcohol and drug abuse.
In the aftermath of the July 12 riot in State College that caused about $120,000 in property damages and injuries to 16 police officers, borough police Chief Tom King, a commission member, told the meeting that his department has spent more than $7,000 for riot gear.
"I was proud to say we didn't need it before July 12, but disappointed to say we do need it now," he said, adding that every police officer in Centre County is undergoing riot control training.
"As a member of the commission, I believe in programming and education to combat alcohol problems," King said. "Whatever we can do to educate is important.
"But we also will do enforcement. The police department is an enforcement agency and we will enforce alcohol laws in the community. We do it as well to prevent tragedies. Our goal is to prevent another event such as July 12 that easily could have resulted in a death."
He said his agency will initiate a number of proactive prevention measures in the downtown area, including possible use of Penn State Auxiliary Police to provide an increased presence.
"There also is a good possibility that we will assist the aid of some students to help investigate areas of high-risk behavior, including serving of alcohol to minors."
King said the department also has been working with property owners on Beaver Avenue where the riot occurred to improve the corridor and has been discussing reasonable rules and regulations for the apartment balconies. One end of Beaver Avenue is lined by high-rise apartments on both sides of the street, with balconies that face one another.
Joe Lundy, a Penn State graduate and a State College resident, representing Acacia fraternity, told the commission that, effective immediately, the fraternity will have an alcohol-free environment.
"The brothers understand it is a major challenge and also a major challenge to the future of the fraternity at Penn State," he said. "It was not an easy decision. But the fraternity leaders are instituting a lot of different programs and social activities and are confident we will survive."
In applauding the effort, several members suggested that the commission challenge apartment owners to provide substance-free housing units.
The commission also:
-- Heard from a resident, a resident assistant and the adviser to LIFE House, a special-interest housing option available to University Park students. LIFE House offers a substance free living space, and members make a commitment not to use or possess alcohol, tobacco or other drugs inside the house.
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