Tags: Colleges | Have | Drinking | Problem

Colleges Have a Drinking Problem

Friday, 03 December 2004 12:00 AM

No problem?

That's what most colleges and universities say.

So what if we know, as a fact, that a few kids will die as a result, and many more will be injured, not to mention developing habits that could kill them later.

For $40 thousand a year, did you really expect them to make sure your kids were safe? Or even try? See no evil, hear no evil, don't get sued is the attitude of most universities.

So far this fall, five undergraduates at American colleges have drunk themselves to death; one of them was Blake Adam Hammontree, 19, who was found dead on Sept. 30 at a University of Oklahoma fraternity house.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg: It doesn't even begin to count the number of people injured in automobile accidents caused by drunk underage college students; or the fact that three-quarters of all campus rapes are alcohol- and drug-related.

University of Oklahoma President and former U.S. Sen. David Boren has decided to do something about it.

As of Jan. 18, when the new semester begins, drinking will be banned in residence halls and fraternities at Oklahoma. Three violations will result in a student's suspension. Staffers will make unannounced inspections. Alumni have been asked to cooperate.

Blake Hammontree had a blood alcohol level five times the legal limit. The fraternity has since been shut down, and a criminal investigation is continuing. But suing fraternities or shutting them down is almost completely useless in dealing with college drinking.

Fraternity membership turns over completely in four years. The students themselves don't control the treasuries or pay for the insurance, if the national fraternity even has it.

Invoking studies done by the Harvard School of Public Health and the National Institutes of Health, Boren in his announcement this week claimed that limiting access to alcohol on campus would lessen binge drinking by 75 percent.

While some doubt the ability of university enforcement to accomplish such a dramatic reduction, no one questions that a university taking a strong stand - one that couples a change of culture with real enforcement - can make a substantial difference.

So why aren't others following Boren's lead? The drinking age, after all, is 21, and all of the students who died this fall were under that age. What possible excuse can there be for colleges to close their eyes to blatant violations of the law on their campuses? If it were stealing, or even plain old cheating, would they be so charitable? Would they claim it just couldn't be done? Certainly not.

I have my own theory. It's not that it's impossible. It's not that it can't be done. It's just that the minute they start trying, the minute they acknowledge responsibility, they open themselves up to being sued, which is the very last thing they want.

As one administrator at another campus admitted, if the lists of parties he was keeping weren't going to be accurate, he'd rather not know, so no one could hold him responsible. Better binge drinking, it would seem, than binge lawsuits.

Unless your kids happens to be the one who dies. In which case you have to say, hooray for David Boren, for caring more about the kids. Which is, after all, what universities are supposed to be about.

COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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No problem? That's what most colleges and universities say. So what if we know, as a fact, that a few kids will die as a result, and many more will be injured, not to mention developing habits that could kill them later. For $40 thousand a year, did you really expect...
Colleges,Have,Drinking,Problem
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2004-00-03
Friday, 03 December 2004 12:00 AM
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