Sunday, February 10, 2008

Students & alcohol — Coast to coast

Stories from campuses in South Carolina, California shed light on dangers of drinking

Here's hoping college faculty in Kansas and across the nation take good notes about something 40 professors at Fresno State have started doing in their classrooms.

Or, more accurately, something the professors aren't doing.

As part of a campaign by the university to combat irresponsible drinking, the Fresno State instructors have taken a pledge to watch what they say to students about drinking.

No more jokes during Monday morning labs about weekend hangovers. No more TGIF talk during the last lecture of the week.

Michael Caldwell, an associate music professor who organized professors to take the pledge, said he took the initiative partly in reaction to the alcohol-poisoning death of a 19-year-old Fresno State student in January 2006.

In taking the pledge, Caldwell and 39 of his colleagues agreed to become familiar with laws and campus policies about alcohol, and become aware of programs and services for students seeking help for alcohol problems. They agreed to promote responsible attitudes toward alcohol in classroom discussions, and they further pledged not to make comments suggesting that all college students drink to excess. Caldwell said students have told him their instructors have made comments to the effect of, "Everybody enjoy partying this weekend," and, "OK, it's the weekend. Let's go party."

"It's easy to make flippant comments about alcohol, and bring your own life or the college atmosphere into the classroom," Caldwell said. "It's usually very innocent and unintentional."

Although Caldwell said the pledge isn't designed to blacklist anyone or make faculty uncomfortable, the initiative has caught on with only a tiny fraction of the university's 1,300 part-time and full-time faculty. One faculty member said the pledge was a restriction on speech and raised questions about academic freedom.

What a sad reaction.

It's hard to see how taking a voluntary pledge would cause any harm.

What's not so hard to see is that excessive drinking is a problem on college campuses.

The same day The Associated Press distributed a story about the pledge, the AP also circulated a story saying three fraternity members at Clemson University were charged in connection with the alcohol-related death of a freshman during an off-campus party.

The fraternity members' activities weren't directly connected to the student's death, a prosecutor said, but the three were charged with transferring beer and liquor to a minor and using fake identification to buy alcohol. The students facing charges are 19, 20 and 21 years old.

The deaths at Clemson and Fresno State happened a nation apart, but they're not isolated incidents. Alcohol abuse has led to medical problems and fatalities on campuses elsewhere.

In reaction, college administrators are taking steps to curb excessive drinking.

The pledge at Fresno State is a grassroots step in that direction, and it's worth pursuing on other campuses.

source: Topeka Capital-Journal

1 comment:

Sugah said...

Two years ago, on my small college campus, I participated in a town hall meeting on the topic of underage drinking. Our chancellor opened the meeting with comments to the effect that, "because we're a commuter campus, we don't have the issues you see at other campuses (regarding underage drinking, or drinking, period)," though she thought that the topic was worthy in its application to the community as a whole.

A sociologist at that campus conducted a survey last year. Guess what? The results indicated that the incidence of binge drinking and alcohol abuse on our campus was well above the national average, even higher than our parent campus, which ranks among the nations "top party schools."

As I sat and listened to the results, being entrenched as I am in the student body, I still think the numbers were low.

It's going to take more than faculty agreeing not to encourage excess in the student body. Maybe a mandatory morgue trip? I dunno...