Can Campus Policies Reduce Binge Drinking?

The prevalence of binge drinking has grown out of control among college students and it has become recognized as one of the most important problems college students are facing today. It can create a range of legal, financial, professional, and family problems for individuals who become dependent on alcohol. While not everyone in college drinks, many do, and in fact, “Four out of every five college students experiment with alcohol in college”. In addition, of these students who drink alcohol, 40% percent of college students from ages 18 to 22 have engaged in binge drinking. This kind of behavior poses a serious health risk and has left health professionals and campus administrators wondering what, if anything, they can do. 

40% percent of college students from ages 18 to 22 have engaged in binge drinking.


When looking at campus policies as a way cracking down on student binge drinking, it is important to understand that binge drinking is indiciative of a larger social problem. Dr. Tiffany Chao, writing for ABC news, reports that binge drinking is the result of a desire for a higher social status and to feel as though one can better fit into a group when they are under the influence. This pressure to drink to curb feelings of social insecurity is not something that can be fixed with stricter rules. Rather, this problem is an indicator of a larger social problem. On a similar front, Psychology Today indicates that consuming excessive amounts of alcohol is done because students at this age struggle with ways to express their emotions. This kind of scenario is described in a piece written for Rolling Stone Magazine by Janet Reitman. She describes former Sigma Alpha Epsilon member Andrew Lohse’s downward spiral which is enhanced by heavy alcohol and drug use. In talking about his difficulty coping at Dartmouth Lohse states “I might have drank myself to death there, I just hated it so much.” Thankfully, Lohse was able to eventually get the help he needed, but his story of binge drinking and fraternity hazing is a lesson of the seriousness of this problem.

In terms of campus policies that are already in place to prevent this dangerous behavior, Elon University has two main policies they stand by which are: medical safety, and the good samaritan policy. Medical safety policy states that if someone needs emergency medical attention they can be taken to the hospital and be guaranteed to be not expelled (but they will have other minor consequences). The good samaritan policy states that if you have been drinking but someone else needs medical attention/help you can call the police or medical personnel without fear of getting in trouble.

These policies are not universal by any means, and different schools vary on how they handle underage alcohol use depending on a variety of factors including the size, location, and if the institution is public or private. A University of Minnesota Study found that “61% of colleges indicated nearly always proactively enforcing alcohol policies, with most frequent enforcement at intercollegiate sporting events and least frequent enforcement at fraternity/sorority events”. Additionally, In a study done by the American Journal of College Health which looks at various colleges and universities responses to the problem of excessive alcohol use on campus, it is found that 32% of the schools surveyed restrict all alcohol use, 75% restrict the delivery of kegs to residence halls, and of the schools with greek organizations, 25% of them restrict alcohol use within houses.

Because alcohol use and binge drinking on college campuses is such a complex issue, there has been a great deal of research concerning how this problem might be best addressed as well as arguments made based on this research. With a topic as controversial and polarizing as this, it is best to analyze all options.

Walker Barbee: Prevalence of Binge Drinking

Ari Denberg: Balance is the Key to a Safe School Environment

Andrew Kerr: New Policies Won’t Change Old Habits 

Breanna Mitchell: Should Athletes Be Held More Accountable Than Other Students

Additional Resources for Campus Alcohol Policies