College Kids and Binge Drinking
Was It The Good Old Days, Or Dangerous?
The New York Times ran a story recently about college kids in Colorado who have died due to binge drinking.
CNN delved a little deeper into the story, citing another example in Oklahoma of a student dying, and what colleges and universities are trying to do to stop the problem.
This Past September, Samantha Spady Was 19 Years Old When She Died of Alcohol Poisoning While A Student At Colorado State University.
Is this news?
Not really. Not in the sense of the word "new".
In my senior year at college, in a small liberal arts school in upstate New York, the campus was rocked by the news that a student was burned to death when his cigarette fell from his hand onto his bed...and he was too drunk to get up.
Even then, about ten years ago, it seemed too common to be deemed newsworthy.
Unlike a death caused by car accident, or health problems, or some random act "that could happen to anyone," this was the kind of thing that really hit home. Almost all of us in the student body had had many nights where we had no control over ourselves.
Drinking to lose control was a goal; drinking so much that you didn't know where you were was something to be proud of. Being young, invincible, and away from home for the first time, many fellow students reveled in the fact that you could pound down drinks and only worry about having a massive headache the next day.
It was the culture of the time. I imagine on college campuses today, it still is.
To its credit, my college took action. They created a "dry dorm" and took what steps it could to reduce binge drinking among its students.
But the reality is that within four or five years of a binge drinking tragedy, no one in the student body remembers what happened. From what I understand, there was another alcohol-related death just two years later, in spite of the actions the school took.
Each year, young freshmen come to college to learn and to rebel in a really "safe" way. In some respects, they are running away from parental messages like "don't drink too much," and in others they are just simply collapsing under peer pressure.
Colleges and universities are doing what they can. One college thinks that by allowing beer and wine only, that it will curb the problem. Others, like my alma matter, are created alcohol free zones.
But the most hopeful approach comes from students and fraternities themselves. One example is the Sam Spady Foundation, which hopes to spread the word about this dangerous practice and stop it through a different kind of peer pressure.
Ultimately, this may be the only kind of approach that works. I don't see college kids listening to their parents or their professors.
Donations to the Sam Spady Foundation may be made here.
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