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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, December 19, 2014

These three stories examine why binge drinking remains a persistent issue on college campuses, and propose possible solutions to a thus far intractable problem.

The Long Story of Unsuccessful Efforts to Fight College Binge Drinking

According to this New York Times article, the history of modern efforts to curb college binge drinking can be traced back to the early 1990s when the College Alcohol Survey, run by Harvard social psychologist Henry Weschler, surveyed 17,000 students on their drinking habits. Weschler’s findings brought the term “binge drinking” into the public consciousness and precipitated a plethora of further research, college and government initiatives, and media coverage aimed at investigating and curbing excessive drinking amongst America’s college students. The human costs are staggering:  each year 1,800 students die from alcohol poisoning, 600,000 suffer alcohol-related injuries, 100,000 experience alcohol-influenced sexual assaults, and one in four say their academic performance suffered from drinking. In the two decades since, the college drinking rate has stayed steady, in spite of these consequences and the aforementioned efforts to keep students sober, or at least more sober. The article explores some of the reasons that the problem has proved intractable even in the face of enormous amounts of money, effort, and research, and why certain solutions known to work, such as partnerships with local alcohol-selling businesses and stepped up enforcement, have proven difficult to implement.

What Kind of Education Can Help Prevent Binge Drinking?

This Washington Post piece posits that education aimed at preventing binge-drinking, other forms of substance abuse, and even sexual assault could benefit from a shift in what we consider taboo in the classroom. Author Alyssa Rosenberg points to programs such as the demonstrably ineffective D.A.R.E. to suggest that simply teaching future college students to say “no,” whether to drinking, drug use, or even sex, is only half the battle. She suggests that, although such training might cause controversy, teaching students about to leave home for the greater freedoms of college how to safely drink and engage in sexual activity could be crucial to giving them a safe college experience.

Could School-Run Bars Help Prevent Binge Drinking?

Even more potentially controversial is this suggestion from The New Republic, which advocates a counter-intuitive solution to college binge drinking: Have colleges start selling the alcohol themselves to “afford the school enormous influence over how, when, and how much students [] drink.” Specifically, the piece recommends that colleges open bars on campus where students can drink (presumably) more safely than they would at off-campus house parties and bars. Author Naomi Shavin points out that this would give schools more control over and insight into students’ drinking habits while also keeping drinking closer to campus, cutting down on DUIs, and keeping inebriated students close to potentially life-saving emergency services.

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