College students out-drink other young people, often with disastrous consequences, and schools and officials are fighting back. The goal is to change the culture of college drinking, to prevent underage drinking and limit dangerous binge drinking. The issue of binge-drinking students is not new, but the recent newsworthy stories of sexual assaults and other kinds of violence committed on college campuses have given the issue of heavy and underage drinking a new urgency.
Nashville Police Are on the Job
In Nashville, where Vanderbilt, Belmont, Fisk, Lipscomb, and Tennessee State University students line the bars downtown on the weekends, officials are working to curb underage drinking and eliminate fake IDs. Bar owners and bouncers are on the job, too, and have cracked down on underage drinkers and overdrinking. Police have stepped up efforts by increasing the number of officers on foot patrol looking for intoxicated and underage drinkers. The efforts on the streets and in the bars have resulted in a 13% decrease in arrests for underage drinking over the last five years. In 2012, Vanderbilt had only 13 alcohol-related arrests of students, and in 2013, that number dropped to two. In addition to crackdowns, penalties have also increased for student drinkers getting into trouble with Nashville police. Instead of giving students a few hours in jail to sober up, officers now make calls to the universities. The schools can then discipline students in more effective ways and offer treatment if needed.
Universities Reducing Drinking
The schools are working to reduce underage and binge drinking as well. According to experts, colleges with clear rules about drinking that are consistently enforced have fewer issues and incidents with alcohol. At Vanderbilt, officials have set rules to fight against binge drinking, but being so close to the bars of Nashville means that these rules are not enough to curb drinking. In addition to alcohol regulations on campus, Vanderbilt has worked to educate its students about the risks of binge drinking. All students complete a training course on drinking and target certain groups, like athletes, for additional training. At nearby Lipscomb University, officials take a hard line and ban all undergraduate students from drinking on campus and off campus. The strict rule has not eliminated drinking, but it has made a difference. Nashville isn’t alone in having a college drinking problem and isn’t the only region working to improve the situation. The University of North Carolina system recently introduced a pilot program at six campuses. The measure includes heavier consequences. Instead of just being punished by the school, underage and intoxicated drinkers will be issued state citations. Depending on the particular student and incident, a citation may be followed by a court appearance or attendance at a treatment program. College campus drinking is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean that it is a necessary part of university life. Underage drinking and binge drinking cause injuries and deaths every year. Heavy drinking can lead to legal problems, assaults and other issues. To bring an end to the harm that drinking causes college students, everyone, from police to bar owners to university officials, must come together to make positive changes.