Harvard and U. South Carolina assess campus alcohol culture

Recent press from Harvard and the University of South Carolina revealed movement in each institutions’  perpetual struggle with students’ alcohol use.

Information about Harvard’s  and USC’s  efforts, made available to the online public, comes near the conclusion of the academic year for most institutions. The end of a school year offers a natural break from the commitments of the academic calendar and allows administrators to take a long look at their numbers.

The University of South Carolina spoke frankly about alcohol in a three part series published in The Daily Gamecock, the school’s student newspaper. The series’ first installment asserted that USC has a “systemic problem with alcohol”.

According to data from AlcoholEdu, a survey given to freshmen and used by schools nationwide, roughly 29% of USC’s freshmen have binge drank before even coming to college. The problem begins before students arrive and is perpetuated by peer-to-peer training at fraternity parties, tailgates, and bars. The culture breeds irresponsible experience.

USC’s public conversation about alcohol comes on the heels of two campus deaths since January 2012. Administrators realize that the problem exists and that campus alcohol consumption will not fix itself,

“I think it’s been a culmination of things that are happening right now,” Maggie Leitch, coordinator for the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention and Education said. “Trends across the country, trends here on campus, potentially some of the deaths. But I think it’s gotten people to really have that light bulb moment — now is the time.”

As USC evaluates its culture, Harvard rewrote its college alcohol policy and placed more responsibility in the hands of its students. Articles in the Harvard Crimson and the Harvard Magazine explained the unprecedented move and its consequences for students.

Students seem to be pleased that the policy will allow the opportunity to exhibit greater responsibility at the parties they host, as indicated by Catherine Katz in remarks to the Harvard Crimson,

“[The administration] could easily have taken a very hard-line policy and said no,” Katz said. “The fact that they were willing to try [the pilot program] shows they were willing to listen.”

Although the policy appreciates student input and concern, the policy also recognizes the inherent problems with campus alcohol culture and strictly discourages any activity in which alcohol plays the primary role.

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