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The campus alcohol problem:
We may be taking too
much for granted...
David Baum, a second-year law student and president of a
small campus group of People Acting to Reduce the Abuse of
Alcohol and other Drugs through Education (PARAADE),
says he understands why the number of drinkers is so high.
"Students don't perceive hangovers and these other bad effects
as being a danger in their lives."
There is one statistic, Herzog notes, that does reflect a truly
negative consequence. The leading cause of death for young
adults in America is the alcohol-related accident. According to
Herzog, "that speaks for itself."
But some educators would rather look for the drinking
"problem" within the psychology of campus drinking - a
cultural phenomenon that equates alcohol with fun on campus.
"Most social activities on this campus still center (around)
alcohol," observes Associate Director of-Housing John Heidke,
who has watched this trend in the residence halls for the last
three years. The observation would hardly shock most
University students. And it would hardly sway them to stop
drinking, says Associate Director of Residence Education
And campus peer pressure, cited all too often as a
rationalization for student drinking, is still being mentioned by
educators as a "sign that students are perhaps unable to make
their own decisions about life," Herzog says.
Dr. Beverlie Conant Sloane, an alcohol educator at
Dartmouth College and national authority on student health
issues, wrote in a 1986 American College Health Association
bulletin on campus drinking that "today, many students don't
think they have the option not to drink."
Parnes agrees. "Of course students think they're exercising
their options. But ask yourself; have you made a conscious
choice to drink, or are you so sucked into the cultural norms
that you haven't ever really made a decision?"
Yet with the emphasis on the social implications of
campus drinking, it is all too easy to ignore what Conant
Sloane calls the "normal health factor."
"It surprises me when campus educators fail to mention
that, quite simply, alcohol is no more a normal part of health
than is a heart attack." She illustrates the dangers of even once-
a-week "binge drinking" with stories of students whose blood
By Lisa Pollak
The recruiters said college would teach us to expa
minds with knowledge. They neglected to say college
teach us to alter our minds with alcohol. After all,
expect the glossy college brochure to mention that up
percent of students nationwide will have learned to drink
It is with some irony, then, that University HealthS
Substance Abuse Education Coordinator Teresa Herzogi
to "Be There. Be Aware" when National Collegiate A
Awareness Week (NCAAW) begins Monday. On a c
where the word "party" is synonymous with "alcohol,'
non-drinkers are the minority, where national averages i
that half of us have had five or more drinks in a row wit
last two weeks - it would seem we are already "there,"
very "aware" of alcohol.
But what the campus events of Oct. 19-25 will
Herzog explains, "is that people on this campus can
themselves without drinking." Her statement is ca
worded, free of moral judgement; she knows what we an
Photos by Scott Lituchy
nd our this weekend. One question remains.
would Can we?
p to 95 Trying to determine whether we
before have an alcohol "problem" on this
campus is a little like trying to
Service stumble home after downing one too.
tells us many drinks; the outlook is fuzzy.
klcohol Many health and alcohol educators
ampus have a vague sense there must be
'where something wrong with the amount of
ndicate partying that occurs each weekend,
thin the but even Herzog says it's hard to
already document if and how many of us are
drinking too much.
stress, "Still, we know that society has an
n enjoy alcohol problem, so it logically
arefully follows that we have a problem on
*e doing campus," Herzog says.
But different people have different
perceptions of what a "problem" act-
According to Terry Dunivan,
director of Ann Arbor Services - an
outpatient mental health clinic -
"the 'problem' of college drinking
may be a misperception."
"If you look at the heavy partiers
in college, it's really a smaller
percentage of students than society is
led to think," Dunivan says. "And
then many get blamed for the faults of
Herzog, widely considered the
campus' most informed alcohol
educator, does punctuate her
description of the campus drinking
problem with plenty of "it varies," "it
depends," and few definite statistics.
For University Housing Facilities Manager George
SanFacon, the campus alcohol problem can be found in each
"trashed out corridor that my people have to clean after a
weekend of partying."
He adds that there's no way to quantify the number of
damages, repairs, or filthy bathrooms his maintenance workers
must clean each week. He does know "there's a definite
difficulty as far as motivating my staff. There's trouble with
morale. And why not? Cleaning up vomit is not meaningful
work," SanFacon says.
Of the 117 resident advisors who responded to a substance
abuse survey conducted by Herzog last March, 67 percent
considered alcohol "a problem" on their hall, and 77 percent
agreed that residents' alcohol use made their jobs more
Janet Hackel, a second-year resident director at Couzens,
explains that "alcohol itself is not a problem. People, when
they are drunk, are problems. Drunk people are not
rational...and less considerate."
Herzog's argument has additional
evidence. Representatives at the
University's Sexual Assault
Prevention and Awareness Center
cannot say how many sexual assaults
on campus are in part attributable to
alcohol. A recent collegiate survey by
Ms. Magazine, however, showed that
some 73 percent of men and 55
percent of women describe "alcohol
use" as a characteristic of their
involvement in a sexual assault.
Leo Heatley, who heads the
University Department of Public
Safety, notes that inebriated college
students - "with their tendency to
react more to the alcohol" - initiate
much of the malicious assault and
destruction reported on campus each
weekend. He cites alcohol as a
contributor to about 70 percent of
campus assaults, fights, property
destruction, and robberies.
But are such statistics decisive
enough to indicate that campus
drinking is at an "unsafe" level?
Captain Robert Conn, a member
of the special services team at the
Ann Arbor Police Department,
doesn't think so.
"What happens is that a few create
the problems, and then all get
accused," says Conn, echoing
Dunivan's words. "Alcohol
contributes to a lot of things, but it
isn't the sole fault of any crime."
Those two ideas go a long way
towards putting the "problem" of
campus drinking into perspective.
Conant Sloane stresses in her
writings that we shouldn't be more
concerned with the drinking habits of
college students than the drinking
habits of any other member of the
"I'm actually surprised at the
number of college students who don't
drink," Parnes notes.
And rather than "unsafe" drinking levels, West Quad
Building Director Alan Levy has seen his residents exhibit
more and more responsible drinking habits over the last three
years. He attributes this responsibility to the enforcement of a
residence hall alcohol policy that prohibits residents to drink in
public areas. And he can prove it.
Before the policy took effect in 1984, Levy estimates,
alcohol-related property damages in West Quad totaled eight to
ten thousand dollars a year. Since 1984, however, damages are
no more than one thousand dollars a year.
But Levy won't give much of the credit for this
improvement to the students themselves. "It's simple," he
says. "We're pushing drinkers out of the buildings."
Both Levy and Heidke think they know where these drinkers
Alcohol and drinking games plays a large part in the social activity of a majoruty of stuents. How much thought do most give it?
According to her, however, we don't
need numbers see that our drinking habits are problematic.
Herzog fears that during college we will learn to ignore our
hangovers, increased tolerance to alcohol, regrettable sexual
experiences, and poor academic performance - all early
symptoms for the one in ten Americans who will contract the
disease of alcoholism - and all attributable to "irresponsible
drinking habits...habits that produce negative consequences."
If Herzog's assertion that "the majority of college students
do not use alcohol in an appropriate way" is true, then these
negative consequences should be enough to drastically lower
the campus drinking statistics. But the liquor keeps flowing -
and 95 percent of the campus still drinks, a figure that has
remained constant for ten years, according to the National
Clearinghouse on Alcohol Statistics in Maryland.
Pollak is a Daily staffer; Lituchy a Photo Editor
"When it comes to al
definitely becoming more re
"But in virtually every siti
problem this year...they rep
Housing Security Superv
at the Greeks. "In residence
campus doesn't have a han(
No doubt about it, the ac
system when it comes to
problem" is a sharp one. He
possible sexual assaults duri
with the alcohol consumed
course, that the Greeks are
on this campus. But sometirr
"When a frat is requesti
and at the same time
kegs...Come over and drin1
they don't know what they
the problem," Herzog expla
But what Interfraterna
Seitanakis does want is fo
blaming the Greeks for a
This year more than eve
Association of sororities are
programs to teach their cc
drinking. The Greeks are al9
NCAAW, including an a
University Club next Friday
Marvin Parnes, who believes that to accurately see the
"problem," we must look below the phenomenon's surface -
deep into the mind of the student social drinker.
"Any time alcohol is an inherent part of your life, or your
social life, we're looking at a problem," Parnes says. "Even if
you're not a full-fledged alcoholic; if the bulk of your social
experiences are always alcohol related, what does that say
about your feelings about yourself and your social abilities?"
Parnes allows that alcohol justifiably can serve as a social
relaxant for students. But his observation and experience has
shown "that on campus, alcohol is too central to too many
social experiences," and is used abusively to control social and
"As a person concerned with human behavior, I worry that
many college students are missing out on some important
emotional experiences because they are covering them up with
alcohol," he adds.
alcohol levels proved fatal at their first college parties. "Once
you get to .05 you're already drunk, and don't need any more,"
For a 160-pound male, a blood alcohol level of .05 is
roughly equivalent to two cans of beer.
But let's say we don't see the risks to our own physical,
social, and mental health as a "problem" resulting from
campus drinking. Herzog isn't finished making her point. "If
drinking was really at a safe level, we wouldn't see (as much
of) the damages, the destruction, the sexual assaults that we
do" she maintains.
"Students are doing a lot of drinking without being aware of
the ramifications," Baum agrees. These "ramifications" focus
on the public, rather than personal, consequences of our
inappropriate drinking habits.
Taps flow at the typical weekend bash.
PAGE 6 WWEEKEND/OCTOBER 16, 1987
WEEKEND/OCTOBER 16, 1987