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Samantha Luu, new director of Campus and Community Coalition, aims to reduce high-risk drinking

Samantha Luu pictured in Porthole Alley on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. Newly elected as the Campus and Community Coalition Director, Luu said she "seeks to address the issue of high-risk drinking through environmental change."

Content warning: This article include mentions of sexual violence.




Samantha Luu, a UNC alumna, was hired in July as the new director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership’s Campus & Community Coalition (CCC), a program that promotes community collaboration in order to mitigate harm from alcohol-related issues.

Luu said she aspires to reduce the negative impacts of high-risk drinking at UNC and in the surrounding communities. High-risk drinking, as defined by Luu, is drinking that is disruptive to individual and community health.

Luu said high-risking drinking can negatively manifest itself in the lives of UNC students, as well as those living outside the University.

“Unhealthy drinking habits lead to negative consequences for students’ academic performance, but also severe secondary impacts on the surrounding community, including sexual assault and other forms of interpersonal violence,” Luu said.

Luu previously worked as the Associate Director of the UNC Peer Support Core in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, which was established in response to a growing need for more peer-to-peer and non-crisis mental health support.

“We evaluated Samantha on the hiring committee based on her experience and her interviews and that she understands the work of the Partnership and the importance of building partnerships and coalitions to work on really thorny issues that need a wide coalition of support to move forward,” Matt Gladdek, the executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, said.

Luu said the COVID-19 pandemic has been responsible for an increased need for mental health support, and that this phenomenon is connected to increased high-risk drinking. She said this increase is a result of the exacerbation of negative mental health issues that the pandemic caused. 

“The reduction of social interactions means that more people turn to alcohol," Luu said.  "Especially amongst the youth, people have been finding it difficult to socialize, and alcohol can serve as that social lubricant.”

Aaron Bachenheimer, the executive director of UNC's Off-Campus Student Life and Community Partnerships, said that although the CCC seeks to lessen high-risk drinking, the organization doesn't want to discourage safe alcohol consumption.

“We are not a prohibitionist effort,” Bachenheimer said. “We want students to socialize, but practice safer drinking habits.”

Luu also said the CCC is not trying to eliminate alcohol from the social atmosphere, but is simply advocating for healthy alcohol use. 

As she starts her new position, Luu said her vision for the future of the organization is to bring in more diverse stakeholders and continue implementing statistics-based strategies.

“I want to continue the good work that the coalition has done,” Luu said. “But I think we could also work more with businesses and students directly, both in the University and the K-12 system. I’d also like to continue using scientific evidence, research and data to drive our decision-making.”

The CCC has employed various strategies to confront problems associated with increased high-risk drinking trends, including the Good Neighbor Initiative, a partnership between the University, community organizations and the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro .

“The GNI aims to improve the relationship between students and non-student neighbors in order to create environments that are conducive to lower-risk alcohol consumption,” Bachenheimer said.

Bachenheimer also said the CCC's ability to maintain high membership and engagement has made the organization successful over the past decade.

“I would love to have more direct engagement with students, both undergraduate and graduate," Luu said. "We have representatives of student interests involved, but I would like to have more students engaging with our website and reaching out to us." 

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