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U.Mag's Top 25 Articles
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Binge Drinking: A College National Pastime?
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"It's not realistic to look at 4,000 freshman and say don't drink. If you're going to college, you're going to drink."

Florida State University junior

The act of overindulging is not uncommon among frat members or the rest of the collegiate population. A 1997 study from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that 81% of fraternity brothers admitted to binge drinking (having at least five drinks in one sitting); that fraternity and sorority members had a drink three times as often as non-Greek students; and that more than half of all students drank just to get drunk.

In light of those numbers and Krueger's death, schools across the country are enforcing a new stricter policy on alcohol -- one that promotes more responsible drinking, even abstinence, among students. Florida State junior Andrea Floyd says those kinds of policies won't be easy to enforce.

"This is a culture. The minute you discover alcohol in high school, you start hearing from friends who come back from college and tell you what it's like and you start anticipating being part of that culture." The education major adds, "I also think it's a really big peer pressure thing. I just think it's the cool thing to do, there is a lot of pressure to fit in. A party is wild if there is alcohol. If there's not alcohol it's dead."

Floyd says schools should preach caution, not abstinence. "It's not realistic to look at 4,000 freshman and say don't drink. If you're going to college, you're going to drink, you're going to party and the important thing is to learn from it; walk away from it."

But abstinence is the policy of choice at some schools. Liz Webb is an administrative assistant at Baylor University in Waco, Texas -- a Baptist school with no gray area when it comes to drinking on campus. "None, or at any activities. There's really not any bars near campus." Baylor human resources junior Jonathan Pendegrass backs her up. "I don't think anyone's abusing it that I've seen."

"I just think it's the cool thing to do, there is a lot of pressure to fit in. A party is wild if there is alcohol. If there's not alcohol it's dead."

Florida State University junior

Baylor isn't alone -- most private religious schools have an outright ban on alcohol on campus. But public and state schools are a different story. A lot of administrators think that it's okay as long as the students are held accountable - and as long as things don't get out of hand.

"We do education programs in the residence halls," says Kimberley Timpf, Assistant Dean for Alcohol and Drug Education at Boston College. "For the freshman students we do mandatory meetings where Boston police come into the residence halls." The idea is to scare some kids straight before they ever take a drink.

For those upperclassmen who should know better, Timpf says, "All of our juniors live off campus. Certainly there are more parties off campus than on because of the regulations on campus. If you're caught off campus the penalties are pretty strict." She says most of the alcohol-related busts are for being drunk in public and underage drinking. "Boston Police have really cracked down on that. There are a lot of arrests taking place off campus." Plus if a student is busted by Boston's finest they will also tell the school, so drinkers could face even more disciplinary action.

Binge Drinking Study*

Students who consume 5 drinks in one sitting:

81.1% of fraternity members
53% of non-fraternity members

Students who admit drinking to get drunk:

52.3% of all students

Students who got drunk 3+ times in a month:

27.9% of all students

*Source: 1997 Harvard University Study

Schools like Boston College teaming up with police is a common theme in college towns. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and two other Boston area universities are working with cops and city leaders on an anti-drinking campaign called "Party Smart." They're putting the message on posters with vivid images, like one that shows a student drunk and sick with vomit on his clothes.

Although these schools are participating in the campaign, none of them have outlawed drinking. MIT administrators say it isn't realistic, instead they are setting aside $300,000 to support alcohol-free activities on campus, hoping "dry" events will help change the numbers.

Because of the 1997 death of Krueger inside an MIT frat house, schools have been cleaning house on fraternity row. Five frats at Iowa State decided to ban booze and one national Greek organization, Sigma Nu, corked alcohol in all its houses nationwide beginning in 2000.

Dan Skiles, Health Advancement Coordinator for Florida State says, "If you're over 21 the current rule is you may have alcohol in your room," but he also points out that this school year they are giving students another option -- alcohol and drug free housing.

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