Representatives of Lawrence's two universities and Mayor Marty Kennedy plan to put muscle behind a task force's ideas to curb underage drinking.
Education and community leaders vowed Tuesday to wage an unprecedented campaign against illegal alcohol consumption in Lawrence.
Mayor Marty Kennedy, Haskell Indian Nations University President Bob Martin and Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway convened at city hall to endorse 11 recommendations from a task force assembled to address the city's high incidence of alcohol-related problems.
The trio agreed to the necessity of a coordinated effort to influence local consumers and marketers of spirits.
There is cause for urgency in Lawrence, given that a task force survey revealed 39 percent of KU students and 28 percent of Haskell students reported drinking to the point of unconsciousness in the past year.
Kennedy said the city commission ought to crack down on minors caught in possession of alcohol. Raising the current fine from $200 to $300 and adding a community-service component to sentences would create a stronger deterrent, the mayor said.
"We do want to increase the prosecution. They must be aware of the consequences."
Kennedy said commissioners should consider task force suggestions to impose mandatory training and licensing of bartenders, regulate consumption of kegs at private parties and open a detoxification facility in the city. He enthusiastically endorsed offering $500 Crime Stoppers rewards for the conviction of people selling fake identification cards to underage drinkers.
"We are really going to take this one head-on," Kennedy said.
While the mayor spoke Tuesday, Lawrence police were investigating alleged production of bogus IDs at a KU fraternity.
Hemenway, who views alcohol abuse as a public safety and health issue, said KU planned to apply significant financial resources to education efforts. University officials expect to hear soon about a grant application to the Kansas Health Foundation, which could sponsor a multiyear campaign to influence student behavior.
He said KU's obligation to help students make informed decisions about the history, science or language was just as necessary as teaching them about consequences of excessive alcohol consumption.
"It is part of the educational process that occurs at a university," Hemenway said.
In accordance with the task force's wishes, Hemenway said KU would talk with Student Senate about enhancing transportation services so students under the influence could get a safe ride home.
KU also may begin notifying parents of students found to have abused alcoholic beverages on campus, he said.
Martin, the Haskell president, said Haskell would respond to the task force by more aggressively promoting wellness. Haskell Counseling Center will coordinate "cluster groups" to take a leadership role in promoting alcohol awareness. One such group was instrumental in organizing an alcohol-free event to welcome new and returning students this semester.
Haskell will seek external funding to enhance campus alcohol education, he said. These programs will be culturally appropriate for American Indian students, he said.
He promised to work harder to inform students about a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol consumption on campus. Parents and guardians will be asked to be more involved in the lives of freshmen, he said.
The trio endorsed funding for substance-abuse education in public schools and for labs used to analyze evidence for underage liquor prosecutions. They agreed the task force should remain in place to sustain support for alcohol awareness.
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