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Smeaton honored for program to curb high-risk drinking

John Smeaton, vice provost for student affairs, recently received the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs (ATOD) Section’s 2003 College-Based Leadership Award at the APHA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

John Smeaton, center, receives his award from Diana Conti, chair of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs section of the American Public Health Association, and Richard Yoast, director of the American Medical Association’s Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse.

The award was given in recognition for Smeaton’s outstanding efforts in Lehigh’s “A Matter of Degree” program that is designed to foster a safer and healthier environment by addressing the problems of high-risk drinking.

“John Smeaton was chosen for this award because he has taken an unusually long-term perspective and personal commitment in looking at how the campus and community cultures regarding alcohol could be changed,” says Andre Stanley, chair of the ATOD section awards committee. “He turned Lehigh into a model of university commitment to handling alcohol problems in a collaborative, planned, persistent fashion—he’s been at it longer than most university administrators and has been a model of optimism, clear thinking and leadership in persistently addressing the issue.”

“Lehigh’s work on reducing alcohol abuse on their campus has been a model for the nation,” says Richard Yoast, director of the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse. “John has been an outstanding leader at Lehigh and innovator in working with the community to solve the problem.”

Lehigh’s aggressive approach to addressing the problems associated with high-risk drinking dates back to 1996, when it became one of only 10 universities nationwide selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to receive a five-year grant to build a campus-community coalition to address the issue. With a four-year grant renewal from the foundation in September 2001, Lehigh’s "A Matter of Degree" program continues that work. Also in 2001, the U. S. Department of Education recognized the university for its model program in preventing alcohol abuse.

Lehigh was aided in the transformation of its campus culture by a strong campus-community partnership, Smeaton says.

“Keys to our success have been the contribution of talented, dedicated colleagues on campus and in the local community,” he says. “While we are pleased with our progress to date, changing the culture of alcohol abuse requires a long-term commitment.”

Since the inception of the “A Matter of Degree” program, Lehigh has implemented a variety of campus and community interventions including campus alcohol policy revisions, engaging parents as partners, expanding non-alcoholic social opportunities, and increasing substance-free housing. Community interventions include community policing, support for City of Bethlehem landlord ordinances, promotion of responsible alcohol management programs, and collaboration between university and city police departments.

Lehigh’s successes are also highlighted in a case study, found here at the Higher Education Center’s website. The case study also was mailed to 2,900 university and college presidents as part of the HEC’s annual mailing.

--Y. Sarah Suh

Posted on Tuesday, December 02, 2003

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