Archive for the 'Week in Review' Category

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, May 28th, 2010

The “vodka eyeballing” trend we made note of this week continues to grab headlines, and it caught the attention of several prominent conservative bloggers who used the story to comment on the legal drinking age. Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online called Legal Age 21 a “deeply flawed” law, “creating all sorts of perverse unintended consequences,” while Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit called the drinking age “absurdly high.” For more of this week’s commentary and news on the drinking age debate, check out these headlines.

Stories this week:

On Thursday, the popular New York Times “Room for Debate” roundtable turned to the issue of traffic safety. The editors asked a panel of nine transportation writers, educators, and government experts, “Do we tolerate too many traffic deaths?” Read the contributions to find out what the panel thinks about drunk driving and a host of other traffic safety concerns.

A week ago, we flagged a story on two Miami University sororities that had been suspended by the school for out of control drunken behavior at their spring formals. This week, a sorority at Ohio University is facing similar charges after members caused nearly $50,000 worth of damage at the Parkersburg Art Center in West Virginia. Check out “Campus Overload” at the Washington Post for a recap of all of these incidents from the past month. Cincinnati Enquirer contributor Timothy Burke noted that stories like these tarnish the reputation of the entire Greek system.

Speaking of Ohio colleges, Dayton Daily News writer Jim DeBrosse examined the rising rates of binge drinking among college-age women and wondered if sweet-tasting alcohol is to blame for this trend. One Miami University junior told him, “There just seems to be this culture that if you drink you have to make it worth your while,” and that for underage drinkers, “you have to drink as much as you can and you have to do it before you get caught.”

In other news…

Elisabeth Best of Miller-McCune examined some new research on the drinking behaviors of American students who study abroad to find out if these students go abroad for the express purpose of consuming alcohol. The research didn’t support that hypothesis, but it did find that heavy drinkers were more likely to study abroad than their non-drinking peers: “people who are [already] drinkers would likely choose study abroad programs in places they could continue to drink.”

Penn State University has released the results of a new annual assessment of student drinking, and the results are mixed: high-risk drinking among male students has decreased recently, while high-risk drinking among female students has risen sharply: “In 2010, 52 percent of female students reported participating in high-risk drinking, compared with 48 percent in 2009 and 46.4 percent in 2008. The percentage of male students that engaged in high-risk drinking was 54 percent in 2010, compared to 60 percent in 2009 and 59 percent in 2008.” Overall, approximately one in four students was classified as a frequent high-risk drinker.

Leave your reactions to these stories in the comments and have a great Memorial Day weekend.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, May 21st, 2010

On Thursday, the 193 member nations of the World Health Organization agreed to adopt a global strategy to combat alcohol abuse. The strategy report includes recommendations to curb online alcohol advertising and to raise taxes on alcohol sales. “Reducing the impact of marketing, particularly on young people and adolescents, is an important consideration in reducing harmful use of alcohol,” the WHO said in a statement to the Associated Press. For more on the latest developments in domestic alcohol policies, check out these headlines.

Stories this week:

Deborah Luskin, a contributor with Vermont Public Radio, gave a fantastic commentary on the drinking age debate this week. Here’s an excerpt:

“I think it’s unreasonable to expect teens to abstain from alcohol until they are 21, and then for them suddenly to become responsible users without prior, supervised, experience. But children learn what they see, and often what they see is irresponsible adult behavior around alcohol. We can stand aside with our arms folded in disapproval as our teenagers cruise the back roads chugging and tossing beer cans out the window, and we can ‘tsk’ our disapproval at the binge drinking that is now campus ritual in college, but we could do a lot more.”

Read the rest of Luskin’s commentary at VPR News.

A few months ago, we pointed out a Washington Post story about “shot books,” scrapbook-like keepsakes that 21st-birthday drinkers create to commemorate their first night in the legal drinking population. The KY Post has more on this trend, with a video from WCPO-TV in Cincinnati.

The University of Nebraska – Lincoln is one school that has reportedly been successful in its efforts to curb toxic drinking by underage students, and University of Iowa administrators want to replicate UNL’s accomplishment. This week, UNL officials traveled to Iowa City to meet with community leaders, student health professionals, and other UI officials to discuss the city’s new 21-only bar ordinance and other efforts to cut down on dangerous drinking.

In other news…

New research from the UT Southwestern Medical Center suggests that heavy drinking may increase the rate of pancreatic cancer among men. The study, which will be published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control, indicates that binge drinkers were 3.5 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, “regardless of when the binge episodes occurred.”

KDLH-TV reported this week that Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has signed into law a series of broad reforms to the state’s DWI laws. The legislation, which will take effect on July 1, 2011, will mandate the installation of ignition interlocks in the vehicles of all DWI offenders convicted with a BAC of .16 or higher. Interlocks will also be used to monitor substance use by chronic DWI offenders who have 3 or more convictions in a 10-year period. Minnesota joins a group of 46 states who have implemented some sort of ignition interlock requirement.

As always, leave us a news tip in the comments if we missed something in this week’s update.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, May 14th, 2010

After last week’s news about the deaths of 21 year-old Missouri resident Alberto Betancourt and Colorado State University sophomore Jon Hunter-Hauck from alcohol poisoning, The Gordie Foundation notified us of a similar story: In New Mexico, 16 year-old Tryan Denetso was found dead with a BAC of .40, the highest blood alcohol concentration the State Police had ever found in a high school student, after drinking heavily at a party on a lake in his hometown last weekend. These three deaths make it clear that we need to do something different in our approach to alcohol education. To learn more about what we can do to prevent these types of deaths in the future, check out these headlines.

Stories this week:

Washington Post “Cheat Sheet” blogger Valerie Strauss asked her readers, “Should breathalyzers be used a prom?” She wrote about one school in Missouri whose students requested that they be used, and another school in Vermont whose school board voted against such testing. She then noted, “Perhaps the real question is whether testing everybody actually stops kids from drinking on prom night.” What do you think?

Eric Morris of the New York Times “Freakonomics” blog wondered what types of penalties we should institute for convicted drunk drivers, and asked his readers how severe those penalties should be. He wrote, “It’s worth looking at possible new measures pragmatically and on a case-by-case basis, analyzing their costs and benefits and not staking out an all-or-nothing position.” Leave your own suggestions in the comments.

Thomas Walton, a columnist with the Toledo Blade, warned that student perceptions of frequent campus binge drinking often become reality if universities lack the proper tools to educate their students.

In other news…

Springtime parties continue to cause headaches for college administrators and law enforcement officials as students approach the end of the academic year. At Ohio University, a student-run event called Palmerfest got out of hand and resulted in dozens of arrests. As WSAZ-TV reporter Carrie Cline noted, “This year, as one city official put it, things were worse than bad.”

An Iowa state commission met this week to decide whether or not to designate the beaches in the Great Lakes area – a popular destination for college students – as alcohol-free zones during the upcoming Independence Day holiday period. The holiday period typically brings thousands of young drinkers to the area, and local law enforcement have had a difficult time reaching people who might need medical attention. Do you think this proposed ban will work?

If we missed something in this week’s update, send us a news tip in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, May 7th, 2010

As the end of the school year approaches, parents and school administrators will be on the lookout for increases in dangerous drinking on college campuses and at high schools across the country. Unfortunately, prom and graduation season is off to a grim start: we received two more reports of alcohol-related deaths this week. 21st birthday binge drinking is often a dangerous affair, and the ritual cost a Kansas City resident his life recently. Alberto Betancourt was celebrating his birthday with friends and tried to consume 21 drinks. He was taken to the hospital and later died with a BAC of .459. In a similar story, Colorado State University sophomore Jon Hunter Hauck passed away after consuming a large amount of alcohol in his off-campus apartment over the weekend. For more on the latest news, check out these headlines.

Stories this week:

Do you need more evidence that the Vermont Senate’s passage of SR 17 is important? The state’s new 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey results show that binge drinking has increased sharply among Montpelier high school seniors: 60% of them said they engaged in binge drinking at least once in the 30 days prior to taking the survey.

Russell Frank, a professor of Journalism at Penn State, addressed the issue of toxic drinking in State College in a weekend op-ed for For the final assignment in his feature-writing class this semester, he told his students to explore the culture of binge drinking at Penn State. He got a list of disturbing but familiar stories: one student told the story of a girl who resumed drinking to a round of cheers after vomiting in an unfamiliar bathroom. Two other students wrote about being struck in the head with flying, unopened cans of beer at parties. Frank doesn’t think the community is doing enough to address these problems, but he isn’t sure what else to do: “I suggest we wear helmets,” he wrote.

James Hart of the Kansas City Star’s “Crime Scene KC” blog recently asked his readers, “Should parents let teens drink alcohol at home?” Legal Age 21 poses a difficult dilemma for many parents, since the vast majority of 18-20 year-olds consume alcohol. Visit Hart’s blog to tell him your story.

In other news…

Inside Higher Ed reported on a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research that showed that college students who binge drink are no likelier to have sex than their peers who do not binge drink, but are more likely to have sex with multiple partners.

The editors of the Hartford Courant offered some sharp criticism of the University of Connecticut’s annual Spring Weekend, which they say has devolved into “an ugly three-night marathon of binge-drinking [and] couch-burning debauchery.” They admonished the students to act responsibly: “students are the only ones who can stop this pointless destruction of property and, now, life — by refusing to participate. If visiting thugs, flying glass and couch bonfires don’t disgust them, the ignominy of possibly showing up on YouTube tossing lunch or passed out should.”

Did we miss something in this week’s roundup? Leave a link in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, April 30th, 2010

This week was a historic week for supporters of the drinking age debate. The Vermont Senate passed SR 17, a resolution urging Congress to create waivers to the federal highway funding penalty attached to the drinking age for states that would like to explore alternatives to Legal Age 21.

Would you like to help us spread the word about this historic victory to other states? Contribute to [CR]’s efforts by making a tax-deductible donation today.

Click here to see the text of the resolution and a statement from [CR] President John McCardell, and then check out these headlines:

Stories this week:

Dr. McCardell was in Madison last night to give a presentation at the University of Wisconsin. His presentation was part of a two-day event focused on the drinking culture among UW students, and Emily Bradley of the Badger-Herald laid out the plans for the event in yesterday’s edition.

Earlier this week, Jason Hanna spoke to parents about the dilemmas they face when trying to educate their young adults about alcohol use while trying to abide by a 21 year-old drinking age. When Hanna asked one parent if she thought it was likely that her children would abstain from alcohol until they turn 21, she said, “I don’t think that’s a reality in this world.” Check out his feature story at for more.

In case you missed it, make sure to read Rochelle Eisenberg’s Baltimore Jewish Times cover story on pre-gaming and toxic drinking, which was published online last weekend.

In other news…

The editorial board of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune believes that the Minnesota legislature should stop interfering in University business and should allow the University of Minnesota to operate the new TCF Bank Stadium and determine its own alcohol sales policies. What do you think?

Cynthia Berger, the Director of News and Public Affairs Programming at WPSU-FM in State College, PA, has helped organize a wide-ranging community forum on the topic of toxic underage drinking at Penn State University. To be a part of the conversation, which will include a live studio audience and online participation from listeners, visit WPSU’s website at 6:30 PM on Sunday.

The Daily Iowan approves of the University of Iowa’s new first-year orientation program on underage drinking, which will combine previously-separated parent and student groups for the first time starting this summer. “We want to foster conversations they can have in the car on the way home,” said Sarah Hansen, the University’s Director of Assessment and Strategic Initiatives. The editors wrote, “At least a few university officials understand that the best alcohol education happens between parents and students. We praise this approach, because it strengthens what parents should have been doing all along with their children.”

Did we miss something in this week’s update? Send us a link in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

In case you missed it earlier this week, check out Daily Beast reporter Isabel Kaplan’s profile of medical amnesty policies and her interview with [CR] President John McCardell that was published on Tuesday. If you live in Vermont and would like to hear more about these issues in person, Dr. McCardell will be speaking at an event at Castleton College next Monday. Can’t make it to Castleton? Check out these headlines for the latest news.

Stories this week:

The editors of the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter believe that the recently-passed Wisconsin Assembly bill that sets 18 as the standard for parentally-supervised alcohol consumption in bars and restaurants takes a good first step toward resolving some of the state’s alcohol-related problems. Read their editorial to find out why.

Kevin Bargnes of the Wisconsin Badger-Herald wrote a persuasive column calling for the repeal of the federal highway funding penalty currently attached to Legal Age 21: “What I want to see is our state legislators granted the latitude to evaluate the drinking culture in their states and make laws based on that, without fear of reprisal from the federal government.” What do you think of his argument?

Alexandra Churchill, a reporter with The New Hampshire at UNH, noticed that her school is one of the few in the region without a Good Samaritan or medical amnesty policy. Students on campus are organizing on Facebook and petitioning the student government to advocate for the implementation of such a policy.

In other news…

A few months ago, we mentioned a newly-formed group at the University of Nevada – Reno which received federal grant money to plan late-night activities that would give students new options besides clandestine drinking parties. The Nevada Sagebrush reviewed the group’s performance in its first semester of operation and concluded that the group was modestly successful.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported this week on some new research that will examine the effect of different types of anti-binge drinking messages on student drinking patterns. A team of Kansas State University researchers is leading the project, and they hope to publish the results of their study this summer.

Susan Krauss Whitborne, a Psychology professor at U. Mass. – Amherst is trying to untangle the meanings of the positive correlation between frequent drinking and frequent exercise among college students. Read her article in Psychology Today for more information about her research.

Did we miss something in this week’s update? Leave us a link in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Now that the spring break period has passed and most college students have returned to campus, many news outlets in Florida are surveying the aftermath of a handful of alcohol-related deaths and a record number of arrests, which were up 144 percent over the March 2009 spring break period in Panama City. Check out the Panama City News-Herald editorial, “Spring Breaking Point,” to read about what the community is trying to do to reverse these trends. Then check out the rest of this week’s headlines to stay up to date on all the latest news.

Stories this week…

Coming on the heels of last week’s segment, Inside Higher Ed and the Washington Post Campus Overload” blog reported on sweeping changes to campus alcohol policy at UW-Stout, the school that was profiled in the segment. Stout Chancellor Charles Sorenson announced that students will face serious punishments for a range of alcohol-related violations, including fake ID possession, vandalism, hosting house parties, and other infractions. The university will also schedule more Friday classes in an attempt to curb toxic Thursday night drinking. Some Stout students aren’t convinced that these measures will work. What do you think?

A team of reporters at the Las Vegas Journal-Review spent a Friday night shift with local police officers and observed as they broke up six underage drinking parties. The police officers involved called it a “slow night.” Check out the Journal-Review to learn more about these “party crasher” patrols, which are trying to prevent the deaths and injuries that can occur at secret house parties.

The proposed 21-only bar ordinance in Iowa City passed in the legislature last week. Check out the Daily Iowan interview with UI President Sally Mason to find out how the school plans to adjust its policies in accordance with the new law.

In other news…

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have found that rates of alcohol consumption are likely influenced by personal networks of family members and friends. According to the research, heavy drinkers have a large impact on the drinking habits of others within their social networks.

A group of students and faculty members at Murray State University debated the merits of a lower drinking age this week. Interest in the issue has been high ever since Murray State President Randy Dunn signed on to the Amethyst Initiative, and this week’s event brought a diverse group together to talk about the consequences of Legal Age 21.

Did you find a newsworthy story this week? Leave us a link in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

As we mentioned earlier this week, a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that nearly 28% of 12-20 year-olds have consumed alcohol in the past month, which is a number that has not changed much in the past 10 years. Our current approach to alcohol education doesn’t seem to be having much of an impact, so it may be time to consider new alternatives. For more on what those alternatives could look like, check out this week’s headlines:

Stories this week:

Upper Arlington, Ohio attorney Brad Koffel has represented hundreds of underage students who have been prosecuted for a minor in possession violation, and he has concluded that our approach to alcohol education is broken: “We have become a nation so obsessed with ‘zero tolerance’ that we are failing to adopt simple precautions that can prevent dangerous decisions that might harm our kids forever.” What do you think?

The editors of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis criticized the state legislature for trying to micromanage the University of Minnesota’s alcohol sales policy at TCF Stadium. They believe the University should be allowed to determine its own policies. What’s your take on this debate?

If you missed Karin Kasdin’s great column in The Faster Times about the challenges posed by Legal Age 21, check it out here.

In other news…

The AlcoholEdu program for incoming first-years at Kansas University is having a positive effect on student binge drinking, according to Jesse Fray’s report in the Lawrence Journal-World. The program indicated that after taking the course, students were more likely to set limits on their consumption, play fewer drinking games, and closely monitor how much alcohol is in their system.

In other news from KU, a class of 34 journalism students will tour college campuses nationwide in search of the most effective anti-binge drinking campaigns and campus alcohol policies. Bob Basow, the course’s instructor, told the Journal-World, “We’re delighted to be working on something that’s going to so directly benefit KU. A culture of responsible drinking will enable students to have a good time and enjoy the vibrant social atmosphere (but) there won’t be negative consequences.”

Until recently, those stationed on the Guam naval base between the ages of 18 and 20 were allowed to consume alcohol, but Naval Base Guam policy has now been changed so that on-base consumption is prohibited for this age group. Navy personnel age 18-20 can still purchase and consume alcohol while not on base, since the drinking age in Guam is 18. Navy officials said the change was made to bring the Guam base’s policy in line with the policies in all other states and territories. What do you think will be the consequences of this change?

If we missed something in this week’s update, send us a link in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, March 26th, 2010

This week, the NIAAA announced a national campaign to promote town halls on the issue of underage drinking to coincide with the launch of Alcohol Awareness Week, which begins in April. Some town halls happened this week, and others will continue into the next month. Visit the NIAAA’s campaign site to find a town hall meeting in your community, and if you attend one of these meetings, let us know what you hear. Check out these headlines for the latest news from around the country:

Stories this week…

Brandon Busteed, the founder of the company that produces AlcoholEdu, an alcohol education program for college students, thinks high-risk drinking on college campuses may be improving. Read his article in the Chronicle of Higher Education and tell us if you agree.

Erik Hayden of Miller-McCune reported on a new study that explores the methods by which underage college students obtain fake IDs. The study also makes connections between fake ID usage and binge drinking.

The Centre Daily Times filed another report in its “Focus on Excessive Drinking” series with a recap of a panel discussion to reduce high-risk drinking at Penn State, which has been plagued by alcohol-related problems in recent months.

In other news:

Law enforcement officials in San Diego are learning how alcohol laws that intend to prohibit use can have some dangerous unintended consequences: a 2008 city ordinance banned alcohol consumption on public beaches, but the law did not prohibit drinking in the water just off the shore. Local beach-goers have created an event to get around the law called Floatopia, where thousands of people drink while floating on tubes and rafts just offshore. This year’s Floatopia event took place last weekend, and the event saw some dangerous behavior: 2 party-goers had to be hospitalized, and 12 were rescued by lifeguards after drinking too much and falling into the water.

Susan Essoyan of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin analyzed some recently-released data from the Hawaii Youth Risk Behavior Survey and found that between 2005 and 2009, rates of binge drinking and past month alcohol use among high school students increased. Though local officials said that the range of data is too small to describe a trend, the persistence of these problems is cause for concern.

A new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology indicates that light and moderate drinking among adults may reduce the risk of heart disease, but the researchers cautioned that binge drinking can exacerbate heart health problems.

Did you see a newsworthy item that we missed in this week’s update? Leave us a link to the story in the comments.

[CR] Week in Review

Friday, March 19th, 2010

In the past few weeks, government agencies have been warning U.S. college students about the dangers of Spring Break trips to Mexico. This week, the Associated Press and ABC News filed reports on travel advisories aimed at young adults. Have your friends and family members traveled abroad for Spring Break to evade Legal Age 21? Let us know by telling your story in the comments, and then check out the rest of these headlines.

Stories this week:

AlterNet contributor Shelly Rollison called Legal Age 21 “a band-aid over the real problem” of toxic drinking in her latest post. She wrote, “One of the best definitions of insanity I’ve ever heard is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results each time. The laws on underage drinking aren’t working. It’s not deterring kids from drinking: they’re just finding ways of doing it that aren’t likely to get them busted.”

Cary Carr, a Temple News commentator, collected stories of fellow students’ drunken mishaps and used them to illustrate the reality of alcohol consumption on her campus: “For a lot of college students, the weekend means partying, and partying involves drinking. Whether it is in a crowded basement reeking of cheap vodka and bodily fluids or at a bar with obnoxiously loud music and an even more obnoxiously growing tab, college kids are getting drunk.”

John Shelness of Des Moines, Iowa is not pleased with the direction of alcohol policies in his community. He responded to a Des Moines Register story about college binge drinking by sketching out the unintended consequences of enforcement crackdowns: “To fix the damage done to the lives of young adults by these overzealous regulators is simple. Reverse the failed policies that currently guide alcohol use for young adults. This neo-prohibitionist approach drives college students off campus and underground into dangerous and unregulated social settings where it is easier to buy, transport and hide hard liquor.”

In other news…

A coalition of departments and organizations at the University of Nevada – Reno is using grant money to develop late-night entertainment programs for students that will give them other options besides large parties that are focused on goal-oriented drinking.

Justin Graham, a resident of Evansville, IN, believes that the recent underage drinking raids conducted by the Indiana State Excise Police are counterproductive time-wasters: “Harm reduction efforts would be much more effective at alleviating the potential dangers of alcohol than heavy-handed enforcement that will ultimately never work. Even if it made sense to use the force of law to prevent young people from drinking, and even if it were at all possible to do so, a drinking age of 21 makes no sense whatsoever.” What do you think?

If we missed an important news item in this week’s update, leave us a tip in the comments section.