Atwater’s anti-alcohol effort: Below expectations

A Civic Project story

Former IUP President Tony Atwater, Nov. 9, 2009. Photo by Brandon Oakes.

By Edward Sedlock

INDIANA — When former Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Tony Atwater took office on Feb. 4, 2005, efforts to contain an ingrained culture of student drinking on campus already were under way.

“There was a large group of administrators trying to wrestle with how to handle the issue of alcohol misuse on campus,” Kathleen R. “Kate” Linder, associate dean of students, recalled in a March 29 interview in her Pratt Hall office. “IUP’s image as a party school had been a long-standing issue.”

Atwater endorsed the ongoing administrative effort. And after his Oct. 6, 2005, inauguration, he upped the ante.

Following a string of substance-abuse-related incidents among IUP students — a fatal drug overdose, a suicide after a fraternity mixer and arrests of some basketball players — Atwater established the President’s Commission on Reducing Student Substance Abuse in November 2005. The blue-ribbon panel delivered its report on May 31, 2006, and Atwater embraced its recommendations.

Altogether, in Atwater’s first year on the job, the university imposed stricter punishments on students for alcohol and substance abuse, and it integrated education and prevention into a campus-wide p.r. effort.

The goal, Ann E. Sesti, assistant director of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs program, said shortly after adoption of the reforms, “is to change students’ perceptions about drinking on campus.”

Three years later, when authorities attributed a March 2009 student death to alcohol and drug abuse, Atwater defended his anti-drug and -alcohol efforts.

“While the optimal positive impact that we hope to achieve will take time, we are making progress,” Atwater said in a statement at the time.

But six years after Atwater embraced the action plan of his substance-abuse study commission, the progress he and other administrators had hoped for is absent in campus police crime reports. Indeed, student alcohol and drug violations are on pace to set a record at IUP this calendar year, campus police say.

Crime statistics dating to 1989 show that:

  • Annual average alcohol- and drug-related violations recorded by campus police were lower before Atwater arrived.
  • The average rose during Atwater’s February 2005-July 2010 tenure.
  • The average number of drug and alcohol violations recorded on campus at the end of the spring semester this year could make calendar year 2012 the worst in more than two decades.

According to the data, during the 16-year period 1989 to 2004, the annual number of police-documented drug- and alcohol-related violations averaged 161.3. (See “By the numbers” sidebar, below.) The annual average number recorded during Atwater’s 2005-2010 presidency rose to 221.8, a 37 percent increase.

  Lt. Samuel D. "Sam Clutter, director of public safety and university police, Aug. 27, 2011. Photo by David Loomis.

Lt. Samuel D. “Sam Clutter, director of public safety and university police, Aug. 27, 2011. Photo by David Loomis.

Campus police say their drug-and-alcohol enforcement has not varied over the years. In an April 20 interview, Lt. Samuel D. “Sam” Clutter, director of public safety and university police, said enforcement did not increase during Atwater’s tenure. And the number of officers on the force has not changed during the past eight years.

Recent trends in the campus crime stats are not encouraging. On May 6, an IUP sophomore was found dead in his campus dorm room where authorities reported finding alcohol, prescription drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Two weeks earlier, on April 20, campus police reported 167 alcohol- and drug-related violations since Jan. 1. And fall-semester numbers tend to be higher than spring, according to Chief Clutter, raising the possibility that 2012 could set a record.

“I think the statistics are going to be much higher than last year,” Clutter said in a May 14 telephone interview. “There is no doubt.”

And in a May 29 phone interview, Clutter put a number on his 2012 drug-and-alcohol-violations prediction:

“”It could easily reach 300 by the end of the year,” Clutter said.

— Edward Sedlock is a junior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is from Northern Cambria, Pa.

Sidebar: Tougher sanctions

One of former IUP President Tony Atwater’s earliest initiatives was imposition of stricter penalties for students charged with alcohol or drug violations.

The official sanctions — ranging from official letters sent to parents of underage students charged with alcohol infractions to expulsion from the university for the first offense of distributing drugs — are posted by the IUP Office of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs.

“I think having it in black and white seems to motivate some individuals to change behavior — but doesn’t seem to motivate others,” said Kathleen R. “Kate” Linder, associate dean of students, in a March 29 interview in her Pratt Hall office.

by Edward Sedlock

By the numbers: IUP drug and alcohol violations

The following chart lists drug and alcohol violations recorded by Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus police during the calendar years 1989 through May 30, 2012. The years during which Tony Atwater served as IUP president appear in bold face.

Figures vary depending on the source.

For calendar years 1989-2005, figures were drawn from a campus-crime report published on the IUP website as part of a detailed annual Trendbook that reported data from IUP Uniform Crime Reports, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Factbook and Uniform Crime Reports. The report has since been taken down from the website.

For calendar years 2003-2012, figures were provided in spring 2012 interviews with Lt. Samuel D. “Sam” Clutter, director of public safety and university police.

The two data sets overlapped in the years 2003-2005. The following chart shows the variance between the published Trendbook data and the more recent police-interview data:

# charges            # charges
Year                      Trendbook                 Police               % +/-

2003                       279                            235                 -16%
2004                       292                            249                 -15%
2005                       260                            203                 -22%

The lower figures result from subtraction of cases referred to the IUP Office of Student Conduct for campus adjudication, Chief Clutter said in a May 29 phone interview. He expressed uncertainty about whether the published figures for 1989-2002 similarly excluded referrals.

Clutter had been with the university for 26 years when his promotion to chief was announced in fall 2011.

The following chart shows alcohol and drug-related offenses for calendar years 1989-2002 (based on Trendbook data) and 2003-2012 (based on the campus police-interview data). The period 2005-2010 — the term of office of former IUP President Tony Atwater — appears in bold face.

# charges         # charges             # charges
Year                 Trendbook             Police            Police (revised)

1989                      89
1990                      159
1991                       177
1992                      103
1993                      70
1994                      91
1995                      122
1996                      71
1997                      125
1998                     144
1999                     258
2000                    195
2001                     201
2002                    205
2003                    279                    235
2004                    292                    249

’89-’04 average:                        161.3                  155.9

2005                 260                 203                   (203)
2006                                          201                     197
2007                                          222                     155
2008                                          235                     153
2009                                          224                     154
2010                                           246                    165

’05-’10  average:                   221.8                 171.6

2011                                              315                         225
2012(5/30/12                             167                        130

Sources: IUP Trendbook, PaSSHE Factbook, Uniform Crime Reports, IUP Office of Public Safety and University Police crime statistics. 


Sidebar: For more info/To get involved

For more information on this story, contact the following sources:

Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Program
Center for Health and Well-Being
Suites on Maple East, Suite G59
901 Maple Street
Indiana, PA 15705
Phone: 724-357-1265
Fax: 724-357-4457

Lt. Sam Clutter
University Police
University Towers
850 Maple Street
Indiana, PA 15705
Phone: 724-357-2141
Fax: 724-357-2104

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