Walker Barbee: Prevelence of Binge Drinking

There are numerous reasons why college students choose to drink.  In an article written by Sarah A. Benton, she uses the experiences from three different girls who drank in college. Sarah comes to the conclusion that there is a variety when it comes to the types of people who drink. There are people who drink for emotional stability, pleasure, and to just fit in with the college social norm. All three girls were binge drinkers in college but Lauren and Tiffany, now young professionals, were able to normalize their drinking habits and are no longer alcoholic. However, Andrea was unable to phase out of college binge drinking and is a high-functioning alcoholic now in recovery. Lauren and Tiffany both explain they were only binge drinkers just to simply fit in with college life. They both stated that Andrea was the type of drinker that used alcohol for emotional support because she liked “blacking out” and not knowing what happened while she was intoxicated. If you drink for emotional support, you create an attachment to alcohol that helps you let go of whatever you are trying to forget. Even the Promises Treatment Center  states “drinking on occasion with friends, relatives and co-workers can be an enjoyable way to celebrate events and socialize.” But a big question to ask is if college students feel pressure to drink to fit into the social norm. Perhaps this pressure to drink is not something that can be fixed with stricter rules. Maybe this problem is an indicator of a much bigger social problem.

There tends to be a problem with how colleges handle underage drinking through their campus policies. Here at Elon University, there are two different types of policies in place: medical safety, and the good Samaritan policy. The 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 or kicked out but it does say the student will face minor consequences. The good Samaritan policy states that if you have been drinking but someone else needs medical attention you can call 911 or even go to the hospital and you will not have to worry about getting in trouble. With these policies in place here at Elon, it allows students who notice others that are in trouble with alcohol feel safe about helping them even if they are underaged. However, these policies are not the same at every college or university and the consequences can vary depending on how they handle underage drinking.

According to a Huffington Post Article, “Punishing students for underage drinking causes them to hide their participation rather than limit it, thus minimizing the ability of universities to monitor their safety.” So, does this mean that more college campuses need to prioritize the health and safety of their student body instead of continuing to push for alcohol consumption to reduce. So far, colleges and universities have not had successful track record trying to make college a safer place for students. Here at Elon, it is also enforced that every student watches an educational video on alcohol and drug abuse before they are allowed to move into college. There is a test at the end of the video to make sure the student payed attention to the video. But the question is, does this educate the students well enough to help prevent binge drinking? While universities have made efforts to limit students’ alcohol consumption, most colleges acknowledge that it does happen, and many turn a blind eye to underage drinking. A junior at Ohio State, Elana Berusch, claimed “police have decided to prioritize valuing student safety over strict alcohol enforcement.”  Even Nationwide insurance agency has stated many times that parents do not want to send their children to universities with the reputation of it being a ‘party school’. With nearly 38% of college students binge drinking monthly, there seems to be a gap between what is happening and what college administrators are doing to prevent it. Clearly the policies that are put in place by the university are not helping to decrease the consumption of alcohol on college campuses. I believe universities are too lenient when it comes to enforcing campus policies. Alcohol is dangerous and something needs to be done about it. Educational videos are great and even policies like the good samaritan are great ideas but they haven’t actually reduced the amount of alcohol consumed on campuses. Universities are either turning away from the problem or they just do not know how to fix it themselves. Maybe it is time to take it a step higher and go to the state and ask to strengthen their alcohol control laws, including advertising, keg registration, and restrictions on happy hours, it could help reduce the amount of students who binge drink.