The University Record, March 29, 1999

M-PACT members out to change U-M's drinking culture

By Rebecca A. Doyle

Gymnast Beth Amelkovich, an M-PACT member for three years, told reporters that it is an athlete's responsibility to help teammates create a safe and healthy environment that would include team policies on alcohol use. Photo by Bob Kalmbach
Fired by a pride in the U-M, themselves and the tradition of academic and athletic excellence at Michigan, a group of student-athletes stood before cameras and microphones last Wednesday and announced their intention to change the drinking culture on the U-M campus and the image that media have about college athletes.

"M-PACT [Michigan Peer Advisers Creating Trust] wants to help bring about a revision in the serious drinking habits of U-M students," kinesiology senior Beth Amelkovich told reporters. The mission of the M-PACT group is to increase, through education and by example, students' awareness of alcohol abuse and its consequences.

"The mission of M-PACT is to create a safe and healthy environment at the U-M in which student-athletes are supported in their efforts to overcome personal challenges," said Amelkovich, a member of the women's gymnastics team, in reciting the M-PACT mission statement.

Although the group's current members are enthusiastic and committed to changing student behavior related to alcohol, they also understand that there are roadblocks on the highway to an alcohol-responsible student population, and that change won't happen overnight.

"We chose to take a stand," said Vanessa Lewis, a senior in kinesiology and member of the women's soccer team. "We want to show that student athletes do more than just win and party.

"We are going to change the drinking culture on this campus and we are going to challenge behaviors that are not part of the image we want for ourselves as student-athletes."

G.J. Zann, LS&A sophomore and member of the swim team, pointed to programs the group has sponsored or co-sponsored on responsible drinking and the consequences of alcohol abuse, but said that it is "still not enough."

M-PACT team members, he said, called the press conference to show their willingness and commitment to help each athletic team on campus produce its own responsible drinking policies, and to work "to be sure we can hold up our heads and say we are the leaders and best."

Athletic Director Tom Goss introduced the students, noting that he was proud that the students had asked to meet with him and said they wanted to begin changing the student-athlete image. Goss said the students also met with all the coaches in every sport and asked for leaders from each team to help with the education and commitment effort.

"They came to me and said, 'Here's what we want to do; here's how we want to represent Michigan.'"

M-PACT is working with the Office of Greek Life to present "Sex Under the Influence," a program featuring Joel Goldman talking about the risks of underage drinking in college, at 7 p.m. March 28 in Cliff Keen Arena. Goldman contracted HIV in college from a sexual encounter when he was drinking.