Everyone hears about the wild parties that go on at colleges. But what usually falls under the radar are the alcohol-related deaths that occur because of them. In reaction to two deaths this year at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University due to alcohol poisoning, the administration and the local community are collaborating to find more effective ways of preventing alcohol abuse.
As noble as their intentions are for accepting responsibility for the problems existing on the campuses, administration types are not going to be able to resolve their alcohol dilemmas with a barrage of anti-drinking campaigns and tighter restrictions. Students simply don’t buy into those tactics anymore.
It will take a lot more than covering campuses with propaganda to change a student’s outlook regarding irresponsible alcohol consumption. Nearly 1,400 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die annually due to abuse of the substance, according to a 2002 report released by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. If this statistic does not strike a nerve with students who engage in this dangerous behavior, it is hard to imagine what will.
The idea of what college life is “supposed to be” has been influencing students for generations. College just isn’t fun unless you’re getting drunk at a fraternity house – which, incidentally, is where the two Colorado students died. Many students want to have the classic college experience, which involves illegal booze and wild Greek parties. Thus, no matter what they are told about no-alcohol policies on campus, they are going to do it anyway.
Since stopping college students from underage drinking is not a plausible goal, the trick is to get them to drink responsibly. There are two kinds of drinkers: the person who goes to drink just for socialization and to have a good time, and the person that sets out to get completely trashed. The latter is a situation that needs to be eliminated and college students need to understand this. Once they do, they will realize that they can still party and have fun, but do it safely and without an increased risk.
“American hero” Michael Phelps, who won six gold medals at this year’s summer Olympics in Athens, Greece is not helping the situation. The 19-year-old was arrested in early November for driving under the influence of alcohol when he ran a stop sign. He faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The worst aspect of this incident is not his pending sentence. Phelps created an image of a role model this summer with his exciting victories at the Olympics. He was this year’s star. But now he has tarnished his reputation and his winnings will always be connected to this incident.
People like Phelps, who have become role models in the public eye, are ignorant to the repercussions of their actions. Phelps served as a model for America’s youth. Celebrities in his situation need to realize that they are given an opportunity, whether they like it or not, to influence massive amounts of people and are able to convey messages through their actions.
When a teenage Olympic star is arrested for drinking irresponsibly and endangering the lives of others, it sends a terrible message because it makes it seem as though this behavior is socially acceptable.
Universities will not be able to tighten their grip on underage drinking. The most they can do is send the message that drinking responsibly is key. The pattern of injuries and deaths by alcohol abuse is disturbing and students must take heed. It is unfortunate that swimming star Phelps has left this problem to drown in his own thoughtlessness.
Jesse North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.