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The intended audience is students of CMU and future students and their families. Living on your own, parties, booze, and drugs are all (hopefully) new experiences that almost every freshman at Central Michigan University has encountered. To most, this may seem like the best time of their lives, to others, it seems scary and dangerous. While these things are not the main focus of college, they play a large role. Binge and underage drinking have always been an issue on college campuses across the nation, and Central Michigan University is not exempt.
Binge drinking can lead to hospitalizations, regrettable decisions, and in some tragic cases even death.
In the past few years that I have attended Central, there have been several deaths that I have been aware of due to binge drinking. One student suffocated from holding his head in a trash bag while vomiting, another was so intoxicated that he fell down the stairs and died. These students were young and had bright futures ahead of them, death should not have been part of their college experience.
Those students will never walk across the stage with their friends to receive their diploma, all because of binge drinking. Unfortunately, binge drinking is inevitable in college towns, and it seems that it takes occurrences like these ones to make students understand how dangerous it can really be. Why is it that the societal norm in college is to binge drink three or four days a week, even if the student is not of legal age? When did it become this way? It seems that most people do not even want to hang out with one another unless there is alcohol involved.
Oh, it’s your birthday? Let’s drink. Got an A on your exam? Drink. Have an exam that you didn’t study for and you know you will fail? Drink! Are students using drinking as an excuse to cope with their anxieties and stresses of school? Or because their peers are snapchatting them and encouraging them to shotgun a four loko and then later on posting to their story a video of them vomiting to make other people laugh? It is often seen as “cool” to be able to drink a lot. You hear kids saying all the time how much alcohol they put down this weekend. Some even make it into games and have events such as beer Olympics or case races where they literally win trophies for being able to drink the most alcohol.
While I am sure these activities are fun and a great way to socialize with your friends, at the end of the day they are dangerous. It has been reported from the Task Force of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism that on average two out of five college students have engaged in binge drinking at least twice during the past two weeks. In addition, the National Insitute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s estimate that 4.3% of college students in 2014 consumed five or more drinks in a row on a daily basis (Nicole). I should note that according to the Center for Disease Control binge drinking is defined as a drinking pattern that brings a persons blood alcohol content above .08 grams percent, or 4 to 5 drinks within a two hour time period (CDC). The National Survey on Drug Use and Health had resulted from one of their studies that showed 60.8% of full-time college students aged 18-22 reported alcohol use and 39.1% were classified as binge drinkers. Other studies have reported that the majority of all college drinking reported it attributed to underage students (Nicole).
While some students do not drink or drink in moderation, the majority of them go overboard and drink as much as they can. One group of students in particular that are known for binge drinking are those a part of greek life. Some, not all greek affiliated organizations, encourage members and especially new members, to drink in excess. There have been rumors that they even use this as a hazing tactic. People who join Greek Life are there to make friends and impress one another, making it difficult to want to say no even when they know they should. Members would rather drink to impress each other than drink to have a good, safe, time. In addition, they have mixers with other fraternities and sororities where they party and drink and of course, have a good time. These mixers and parties in general even outside greek life are a way for new students to make friends. These parties build trust in one another, especially if you see the same people at every party. However, this trust can lead to the inability to protect oneself and the ability to identify risky situations (Nicole). I bring up Greek Life because it is far more common for freshman to join Greek Life and freshman are almost always under the age of twenty-one. Research indicates that there is a significant relationship between greater alcohol use and heavy episodic drinking among those involved socially in college Greek fraternities and sororities (Nicole). It has been found that while those who are underage do not drink as often when they do drink they are more likely to binge drink (NCBI). According to the Center for Disease Control underage binge drinking has caused more than 4,300 deaths per year. In addition, about 189,000 emergency department visits were made last year for injuries and other conditions linked to excessive drinking for people under the age of 21 (CDC). Underage binge drinking is a public health issue and has caused the United States Economy $24 billion in 2010.
The Central for Disease Control also states that underage binge drinking can lead to memory problems, abuse of other drugs, and problems with school and social problems. Students tend to forget that the main reason they are away at University is for an education, and binge drinking can often lead to dropping out. Many students skip class due to hangovers or drink instead of studying and doing assignments. Binge drinking not only has substantial effects on one’s health but can also have an effect on their future. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimated that 25% of college students have experienced academic difficulties due to alcohol consumption (Nicole). According to an article by Kyle Kaminski on MLive, a Michigan based newspaper, only about 20 percent of the first-time freshman enrolled at CMU earn a four-year degree in four years. While alcohol is not the only blame of this statistic, it certainly plays a large role. If you attend Central Michigan University, it is required that you take an online alcohol course, provided for the student free of cost by the school. However, most students do not take this course seriously because it is online and you can easily click through the slides without retaining any information. This course is also required to only be completed once, during your first semester at CMU. there most likely were students who learned a lot from the course and took it seriously, however for myself and others that I know who have taken the course, they just clicked through the slides.
Central could decide to make this course mandatory to take every year in order to make it more effective. If they decide to do so, the course should be different every year, and not so easy to just click through. Instead, they could offer a one day, in-person training session every year so that students will be more likely to pay attention. In addition, I think Central should send out notifications when students have reported serious effects from binge drinking. For example, if a student is hospitalized a report would go out (it would be anonymous) about how much the student drank, their BAC, and if they were injured or not. This could let other students know how serious of a problem this is and hopefully deter them from making the same decisions. What is the proper way to reduce excessive binge drinking among underage college students then? Most college campuses have policies set to deter students from doing so. Central Michigan University, for example, states on their website that those under the age of twenty one cannot possess alcohol in the dorms. Those over the age of twenty one may possess and consume alcohol in the dorms as long as everyone in that room is over the age of twenty-one (Alcohol and Controlled).
Furthermore, it is stated that “Residents agree not to possess, use, manufacture, produce or distribute, or aid in the use, manufacture, production or distribution of any controlled substance except as expressly permitted by law” (Alcohol and Controlled). The webpage outlines the rules that residents must follow, but it does not explicitly list the outcomes if they violate the rules. This page is mostly geared toward incoming students and underage students, but the most important aspect that could deter students from drinking would be the reprimands that are not easily accessible. While most students would see this and simply follow the rules because it is the right thing to do, others will ignore this page because they will think that there are no consequences. A study was done among 10 universities in North Carolina to solve this issue. The study was around environmental strategies and plans were made with local law enforcement.
Across the schools, there was 1 off-campus policy and 11 on campus policy implemented. On campus policies included increased sanctions for student alcogol violations, benefits for students in good standing, new late night programming, ban on alcohol flyers in residence halls, restrictions on alcohol paraphernalia, interdepartmental procedures for better communication and reporting, dual judicial policies to address off-campus behavior and clarity on student code of conduct (Wolfson). Three of the schools implemented comprehensive social norms marketing campaigns including a safe ride program, commitment from area landlords to track student alcohol violations in apartment complexes, and host meetings with area retailers to improve responsible service practices (Wolfson). One school had a “Citizen Scholars Program” where privileges such as preferential campus housing and parking spots were tied to clean alcohol records (Wolfson). After these measures were implemented students self-reported that there were fewer consequences due to own drinking i.e requiring medical treatment due to drinking, a DUI, being involved in a physical interaction while intoxicated or being taken advantage of sexually (Wolfson). I believe that these measures could significantly help the binge drinking problem at Central Michigan University. People who are familiar with CMU are familiar with the annual event Main Stage.
I remember my freshman year at CMU I went and received shot glasses and coupons from local bars, even though I was only eighteen years old. By having bars and liquor stores promote themselves at Main Stage, it gives off the message to young students that CMU condones underage drinking, especially on campus. I believe that Central could benefit significantly if alcohol paraphernalia, as well as alcohol-related advertisements, were eliminated from the campus. Having meetings with local liquor stores about the importance of IDing properly will also play a huge role in the number of students that underage drink. It is known around campus which liquor stores do not scan IDs, or do not ID at all. If liquor stores had stricter policies, for example, if they scanned a fake ID they would report it to the police, this would deter students from easily accessing alcohol the way they do. Some people think that an “easy” solution would be to just lower the drinking age to eighteen. This is not an easy or safe solution to the problem. In the 1970s many states lowered the drinking age to eighteen. This was followed by increases in the sale and consumption of alcohol and in alcohol-involved traffic fatalities among those aged 18-20 (Wechsler). After seeing this, states raised their drinking age to twenty-one, causing underage young adults from those states to drive to other states in order to purchase and consume alcohol (Wechsler).
In 1984 The National Minimum Drinking Age Act became a law, requiring that states prohibit the purchase and public possession of alcohol for persons aged younger than twenty-one years old, in order to receive all federal high way funds (Wechsler). In other words, Michigan will never lower their drinking age to eighteen because our roads will become almost nonexistent if we lost the little funding we already have to fix them. I propose that Central Michigan University takes after the schools in North Carolina and instills environmental policies to reduce underage binge drinking. Having policies such as calling the police when a fake ID is found alone could dramatically reduce underage drinking. Preventing binge and underage drinking needs to be a goal not just for the campus community, but the community of Mt. Pleasant as well. Every business that sells alcohol needs to have an ID scanner including bars and grocery stores. Alcohol is extremely accessible for underage students, especially when they have made friends that are of age that can buy for them. There needs to be stricter consequences for those who are found supplying alcohol to those who are underage.
In addition, rewards such as preferred parking and housing will be a great incentive for students to not get an alcohol violation on or off campus. By having these policies enacted, it could increase freshman enrollment and make residents of campus and Mount Pleasant feel safer. Binge drinking and underage drinking on Central Michigan University’s campus needs to be controlled.
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