Column: How we can better address dangerous binge drinking on campus

By Isabella Simonetti, Oct 16, 2017 — In college drinking culture, moderation does not exist.  Approximately 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder. Additionally, a 2014 survey found that two-thirds of the 60 percent of college students who consumed alcohol in the past month engaged in binge drinking, a behavior that brings blood alcohol concentration to more than .08.

Students here are eager to boast about the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle that is fundamental to the Penn experience. They join countless clubs to build their resumes, crank out research papers at Van Pelt and ace calculus midterms. But the weekends start on Thursday along with students’ destructive drinking habits.

The consequences of this behavior are no secret. Researchers estimate that 1,825 college students die per year from alcohol related injuries, 696,000 students are assaulted by another who has been drinking and 97,000 experience date rape or alcohol-related sexual assault. We have seen these statistics in action through the recent death of Pennsylvania State University student Tim Piazza and the Stanford University sexual assault case.

Some of the Penn administration’s attempts to reduce the negative effects of binge drinking have been effective. For example, the University’s medical amnesty policy allows students to seek medical attention while under the influence without facing disciplinary repercussions, while MERT provides urgent care to those who have been affected by alcohol poisoning among other issues.

Nevertheless, the administration needs to turn more attention to alcohol abuse on campus. Additionally, we as students must do our part to stop fostering an overly excessive drinking culture.    Penn State University recently implemented a task force to help combat the dangers of excessive drinking, which has been the subject of much scrutiny. However, the task force inadequately addresses this issue and only caters to the wealthy by raising the cost of partying.

On many occasions, students have called on the University to implement effective policies and form groups that will aid the consequences of excessive drinking. Undoubtedly, it is time for the administration to listen.  Students should also refocus their attitudes by thinking differently about how rewarding binge drinking promotes a negative campus culture. “Work hard, play hard,” when taken to its extreme, is not something to brag about.
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