Archive for May, 2010

[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.

Jonah Goldberg: Legal Age 21 “Deeply Flawed”

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

This week, Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online picked up the story of a disturbing and bizarre trend among young drinkers: it’s called “eyeballing,” and it first came to light via the Daily Mail in the UK. According to the Washington Examiner, this novel method of alcohol consumption involves pouring liquor directly into one’s eye, supposedly allowing for quicker alcohol absorption into the bloodstream.

The practice, which has received plenty of attention lately, caught Goldberg’s attention yesterday. In commenting on the practice, he published part of an e-mail from St. Lawrence University Professor of Economics Steven Horwitz, who wrote,

“Until we get a sensible policy around alcohol and help young people use it responsibly, and enable colleges to facilitate responsible use for those under 21, we’re going to see more stories like this one.  And we’re going to see more young people injured and dead from high-risk use, and more wasted (no pun intended) potential among those same young people.”

At the end of his series of posts on the subject, Goldberg concurred with Professor Horwitz and added, “I think the 21 drinking age has always been deeply flawed, creating all sorts of perverse unintended consequences.”

What do you think? Is this practice really growing in popularity, and have you seen it anywhere? Leave your feedback in the comments.

Tufts Daily on Changes to University’s Alcohol Policy

Monday, May 24th, 2010

At the start of this academic year, administrators at Tufts University made some changes to the school’s alcohol policy that included placing first-time offenders on disciplinary probation instead of issuing them a warning. Many students worried that the punitive nature of these changes would discourage drinkers from seeking medical attention for their friends who needed it in order to avoid punishment.

This week, a university steering committee has responded to these concerns by revising the policy to include a partial amnesty provision, according to a Tufts Daily report by Ellen Kan. Bruce Reitman, the Tufts Dean of Student Affairs, told the Daily, “We’re acknowledging student input, looking at the policy and reviewing it, changing it in the direction that students wanted. The steering committee is putting in place not quite a full amnesty program but a forgiveness option allowing probationary status to drop back to a warning level.”

Tufts student body president Brandon Rattiner added, “This year’s policy was a good thing, even if what it did was focus enough attention on the issue of dangerous drinking … There were a lot of events and milestones during the year where the dangerous use of alcohol was being discussed by students more than ever before, and now we have a resolution about it after long debate.”

Has your student government discussed amnesty policies with your college’s administration? How did the debate turn out? Let us know in the comments.

[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.

New Report on Alcohol and Social Media Marketing

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

This week, the Center for Digital Democracy and the Berkeley Media Studies Group released a new report on the alcohol industry’s use of social media technologies to market their brands. Juliana Gruenwald of the National Journal noted that while the report “does not provide any examples of how these campaigns specifically target underage users,” CDD Executive Director Jeff Chester told her that the industry needs “to tread carefully in how they use this arsenal of powerful online marketing tools.”

The report stated that the typical age-verification methods that prevent underage users from being exposed to such advertising “are not only inadequate but increasingly irrelevant.”

Read the rest of Gruenwald’s Tech Daily Dose post for more on this debate.

Drunken Behavior Causes Sorority Suspensions at Miami U.

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Two Miami University sororities have been suspended by school officials for drunken behavior at their annual spring formals, according to a Dayton Daily News report by Meagan Engle:

“Pi Beta Phi and Alpha Xi Delta were suspended after drunken students damaged Lake Lyndsay Lodge in St. Clair Twp. and the National Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati…

Many alumnae were embarrassed as details of the parties made headlines across the country with stories of Greeks vomiting, urinating and having intercourse in public places.”

Engle spoke with Barbara Jones, the University’s Vice President for Student Affairs, who said that this level of toxic drinking among sorority members was rare in the past but is becoming increasingly common: “Some of the behaviors that have impacted the fraternities in the past, are impacting the sororities now. I haven’t seen anything to this extent. It certainly seems to have escalated,” Jones said.

Have you heard of similar incidents at your school? Let us know in the comments.

[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.

Sacramento Bee: UC Davis Community Tries To Tame Picnic Day

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the unprecedented outbreak of drunken violence that occurred at the annual UC Davis Picnic Day event. On Monday, a group of students, Davis administrators, and local business owners met to discuss what they could do to prevent such violence from happening in the future. Sacramento Bee reporter Hudson Sangree reminded readers, “Picnic Day on April 17 drew an estimated 75,000 people to Davis. It was marred by public drunkenness, street brawls and gunshots. Women reported being groped, and one Davis police officer was injured breaking up a fight.”

Gary Sandy, the University’s Director of Local Government Relations, told Sangree that the group talked about discouraging pre-dawn alcohol sales at local bars (one bar owner has already agreed to move up his opening time on next year’s Picnic Day) and emphasizing responsible consumption among the Davis students that attend the event.

What do you think should be done to ensure safety at these types of events? Leave your ideas in the comments.

The Oklahoman: Fighting Binge Drinking at OU

Monday, May 10th, 2010

In 2005, the University of Oklahoma instituted a dry campus policy following the alcohol poisoning death of OU first-year student Blake Hammontree. Over the weekend, James Tyree of The Oklahoman visited the campus to see how this policy is working five years later.

Some students argued that the dry policy drives drinking off campus and underground: a first-year student said, “It forces kids to go to the bars or to a house that’s off campus to drink, and then they have to find their way home, and that makes it worse. If you can’t drink at a frat house, then you go somewhere else.”

Others told Tyree that University policies implemented in conjunction with the dry campus rule, including a SafeRide program to curb drinking and driving, are working out quite well: the number of DUI violations reported to the OU Student Conduct Office has declined steadily in the past three years.

Have administrators at your school instituted a dry campus policy? If so, how is it working out? Let us know by telling your story 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.