New group examines alcohol on campus

By Melissa Blake

NIU officials and community leaders are collaborating to create the Alcohol Education Task Force to look at issues of alcohol use on NIU’s campus.

The task force, which was formed this semester, will look at university policies and practices relating to alcohol and how to communicate with students, said Brian Hemphill, vice president for student affairs.

Kris Povlsen, DeKalb’s 2nd Ward Alderman said he sees it as a very positive thing.

The task force has been meeting for several weeks, said DeKalb City Manager Mark Biernacki, who is “pleased to be a part of it.”

Alcohol awareness is not just about campus involvement; it involves community involvement as well, Biernacki said.

There are 25 people on the task force, said Hemphill, who formed the task force.

“This is an important initiative because issues around alcohol have hit many campuses across our nation in a very tragic way,” Hemphill said. “It’s important that we’re being proactive to ensure that our students can make informed decisions.”

The task force has already met this month and has four goals, Hemphill said.

First, the task force wants to audit all alcohol-related programs and services on campus. Second, the committee wants to collect data and hold focus groups to get an idea from students about the extent of alcohol use on campus.

“[It’s] very important to hear our students’ voices,” Hemphill said.

Third, the committee will conduct a benchmark study to look at schools that are leading the nation in alcohol prevention services to students and ones that have developed a culture of responsible drinking. And fourth, the committee will produce a final report recommending programs, services and policies for NIU and DeKalb.

“This will improve the quality of educational programs and services to students within our community,” Hemphill said.

For the past several years, NIU has been tracking alcohol on campus, said NIU President John Peters.

Usually, when a situation arises – especially behaviors of a criminal nature – officials have found that alcohol was involved and impaired the judgments of students.

“I do have [a] concern of appropriate use of alcohol on campus,” Peters said.