Notes on the Community Action Summit

Paul J. Zingg, CSU, Chico PresidentBy Paul J. Zingg, CSU, Chico President

A remarkable and important event took place on the Chico State campus on Feb. 22. The catalyst for the event was a public letter, a Call to Action, issued in January by 28 leaders of our community’s civic, government, business, educational, health, and safety sectors and agencies, including me. The call brought over four hundred representatives of these groups together for an Action Summit to address issues of alcohol and drug abuse and many other matters impacting the wellness and quality of life of our community. The gathering also included about 150 students and several dozen parents of our students.

The tone for the day was set by four speakers: Chico Mayor Mary Goloff, retired sociology professor Walt Schafer (who had co-authored with former University President Manuel Esteban a powerful study in 2005 on drinking issues on our campus and in our community), Chico State Health Center medical chief of staff Deborah Stewart, and me.  We had not rehearsed our remarks, but we all struck the same central chords. First, we emphasized that understanding is a necessary requisite for effective and informed action. And we made it clear that we expected meaningful and consequential action to flow from the day’s conversations and exchanges. Second, we stressed that we were not here to wring our hands in frustration or desperation; not here to wag our fingers in rebuke or warning; not here to point our fingers to blame or demonize. We were here to define our threats and challenges; to listen, carefully and respectfully, to all points of view on what they are; and to raise expectations that we will address them.

What was especially remarkable about this event is that the speakers set the tone. But they did not establish the agenda. SummitMarkFinalRather, the format that was chosen was particularly designed to enable the attendees to talk about what they thought was important and to identify the solutions that they wished our community to pursue. And they did not hesitate to do so.

Fifty-six different topics were identified, many effectively and impressively articulated by our students.  It was another lovely reminder of how responsible our students can be, how thoughtful and engaged they often are when it comes to matters that affect their experience in Chico. The topics ranged from the low cost and plentiful availability of alcohol in our community to alcohol prevention, counseling, and education; from improving lighting in certain streets and neighborhoods to providing more alcohol-free entertainment and activities; from eliminating a Greek system at Chico State to taking steps to ensure that, if we have one, it is a national model; from communicating more clearly to prospective students and visitors our expectations for their social behavior in our town to ensuring that the residents of Chico set positive example in these regards; from emphasizing personal responsibility to promoting wellness as a community value.

I was struck, in particular, with how often the topic of wellness came up. Many linked wellness to some of the defining characteristics of our community, such as our commitment to the arts, outdoor recreation, a charming downtown, and sustainability. Others talked frankly about wellness as a value that represented a holistic gauge on the health of our community and our quality of life. Indeed, this was a discussion as much about wellness as goodness, and it felt very good to be a part of it.

I am always pleased when a discussion focuses on values.  For, after all, a community is formed around shared values, and a key mark of a community’s strength is the extent to which its enacted values are aligned with its professed values. This, of course, will be the test of both the Call to Action and the Community Summit—that is, translating good talk and best intentions into effective action and lasting commitments.

None of us—especially those who have been in these conversations before—are naïve enough to believe that one event will solve all of our community’s problems related to alcohol and drug abuse. But so many attendees told me that this one felt different. They were encouraged by the turnout, energized by the format, and hopeful of the next steps. Those next steps include a University-specific forum on alcohol and the establishment of several work groups to focus on the main issues that emerged at the summit and to identify and prioritize actions that we might take to address them.

This is an action-oriented agenda, as it must be. Its goal is not just to keep busy those members of our community and campus who are interested in the work before us but to ensure that our conversations positively impact our community, our neighborhoods, our streets, and our schools. Lives are in the balance. And Chico—the wellness community—understands this.

Paul J. Zingg


7 thoughts on “Notes on the Community Action Summit”

  1. Thanks so much for the overview of the summit So encouraging to hear that many are involved in this cause. It has to change it is time Iam an alum of Chico and now my daughter attends She loves the campus,faculity and courses, but finds the party scene distracting and exhausting. She is very involved on and off campus but still finds most students want to party.
    I wish there was some way parents could become more involved in this quest. We live in the Bay area.
    Thanks again for your efforts.


  2. I suggest you read the March,2013, issue of Scientific American, page 86. It refers to pluralistic ignorance. The title is Dictators and Diehards.

  3. Alcohol and drugs destroys others lives this as a mom of a son who is a victim of abuse from a complete stranger/alcoholic. I know the pain it causes others… My son is a first year freshman at Chico. He loves attending Chico. Good grades and very happy. My son loves his form and his Chico friends too.
    My son is home now here in el dorado county on spring break. My son went to a house on Saturday night with a few friends. A stranger he did not know there was very drunk and angry. Unfortuately my son fell victim to the anger and abuse of this stranger who is a recent graduate of one of the high schools (not my sons) here. He in a fit of rage decided to attack my son in a drunken rage since he did not like the fact that my son was there. The drunk stranger young man told my son in a rage to leave. The stranger or my son did not know eachother…My son got up to leave the gravely drunk man then grabbed my son is a choke hold and my son blacked out as others looked on and then the drunk banged my sons head into the wall breaking his head open and bursting the blood vessels in my sons eyes and more damage. A stranger took my son to the hospital since my sons friends with him earlier had decided to leave my son. My husband and I got the call late into the night. The call no parents want to receive. My son us alive. My son has clamps in his head and is very badly black blue purple and red all over his head and eyes, we picked our son up drenched and cacked in his own blood, but thank God our son is alive. Our son had no drugs and alcohol. Our son was a victim this past Saturday night. A victim to a stranger who is a alcoholic with 3 past DUI’s., My son could have been killed by a man with a drug and alcohol addiction but my son is Alive. The police came to the hospital, and our home.Our son is not the same. More doctor appt. are needed. He is slow. Our son blacked out and in ghe choke hold and everything went black he remembers as he lost consciousness and oxygen. Yet, our son is alive. On the way home from the hospital my son said to me;”mom this wouldn’t have happened to me in Chico.”…that is what my son said very slowly as I heard he missed his college and friends….Now-Only now time heals all wounds ….as a mom I can only hope and as a mom I can pray my son gets better, but I am just so glad my son is alive, Thank God.

  4. Thank for the overview. I am following this story closely. Myself, along with eleven other family members, graduated from Chico. My son is a Senior at Chico and my daughter will soon be attending. I want it to be a positive experience. Chico has so much to offer …gorgeous parks, beautiful downtown, peaceful campus. There is no need to destroy this image with the overuse of drinking and drugs. You can start by not offering dollar shots at the bars every night of the week!!!! I certainly had my fair share of beer on the weekends….but never during the week. I was sad to hear that it was now common to drink during the week. Shame on the bars!!!! Together, with the community, we can continue to strive to make Chico a desirable place to go to school.

  5. As A Parent of 4 boys (my oldest son David Item right now in Chico Univ.) Alcohol was never allowed in our home(s)…Nor did I drank outside of my home(s). ONLY Up at a church altar, and ONLY during a communion church service. I as a parent Believe strongly to help our children it starts at home, in the home. The parents and/or guardians of young children and older children MUST set the example. Yes, IT Starts At Home. It starts with the parental guardian example in a child’s upbringing. Children learn by example. Children see-children do…&- “Underage drinking (smoking drugs and/or taking drugs) should NOT be a normal part of growing up. It’s a serious and persistent public health problem that puts our young people and our communities in danger. Even though drinking is often glamorized (in the media), the truth is that underage drinking can lead to poor academic performance, sexual assault, injury, (as with my son David Item/please ‘see above’) and even (sadly) death.” &- Peer drinking, low self esteem, depression, struggling in other areas of their lives) – people who have friends who drink regularly or abuse alcohol are more likely to drink excessively and eventually have an alcohol problem…Alcoholics are obsessed with alcohol and cannot control how much they consume, even if it is causing serious problems at home, school, work, and financially.”…And Also -Easy access (Yes, Bars, parties and/or Peers offering cheap drinks to college students)- Experts say there is a correlation between easy access to alcohol (cheap prices) and alcohol abuse and alcohol-related deaths…
    Counseling – a qualified counselor can help the alcoholic talk through his/her problems and then devise a plan to tackle the drinking. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is commonly used to treat alcohol dependency.

    Treating underlying problems – the alcoholic may have a problem with self-esteem, stress, anxiety, depression, or some other mental health problem. It is important to treat these problems too. It is crucial for the alcoholic to realize that drinking will probably make mental health problems worse. As alcoholics commonly suffer from hypertension, liver diseases, and possibly heart diseases, these will need to be treated too.

    Residential programs – residential programs are ideal for some people. They include expert professional help, individual or group therapy, support groups, training, family involvement, activity therapy, and a host of strategies that are aimed at treating the alcoholic successfully. Some people find that being physically away from access to temptation is a great help….
    A US study found a strong link between alcohol tax increases in 1983 and 2002 and a significant drop in deaths related to alcohol use in one American state – the effect was found to be nearly two to four times that of other prevention strategies such as school programs or media campaigns (As Community Action Summit @Chico State University is doing now- & we thank you! And, I As A Mom of 4 young impressionable leaders in the making, I thank you for Action Summit! & May God bless you All & May God help us to guide us ALL as Parents & School Leaders. Leading Us & Directing Us To Reach Out to Help Our Young People To A Much Better Way Of Life. Yes, To Better (self-controled) Choices in ALL areas of Our Lives As Parents. Especially For Our Children watching & Learning & Our Young People In College Now Living On Their Own & Away From Home.
    [Some info. from MNT Medical News Today]
    -Peace Be With You All.

    1. AND…I would also like to add and say A BIG THANK YOU to the Chico State University Student Health Service. After they got the proper information from Mercy Catholic Hospital in Folsom Ca. -My son David told me you all took his clamps out of his head. May God Bless the professional Student Health Doctors and Staff who took very good care of Our Son David Item during the proper procedure of the removal of the clamps in his head. Now, Thank God David is doing much better, and making a full 100% recovery from his horrible alcohol related ordeal he had as I stated up above. Yes, David is Healing inside and out. I saw this in my son on Easter Sunday. Again, I thank Chico Student Health Services. Thank you for playing a part in assisting to help in David Item’s full recovery.

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