The University Record, September 13, 1999

National campaign aims to raise awareness of binge drinking

By Jane R. Elgass

‘It’s tough to be a college kid today. That’s why we’ve developed Binge BeerŪ. At Binge, we understand that sometimes you just need five or six drinks the night before that big test. And there’s nothing quite like a couple of quarts of liquid courage before going out to make new friends. We understand what it’s like. Who says falling off a balcony is such a bad thing? And what’s an occasional riot? Or even a little assault between friends? Thousands of college students across the country have already discovered Binge. And this year, thousands more will try it. Don’t think that’s a good idea? Neither do we, but we need your help in convincing our students of the dangers. Talk to your kids about binge drinking, or visit our Web site at www.nasulgc.org/bingedrink.’
The U-M is one of 112 universities participating in a national campaign aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of high-risk and binge drinking by young people.

Launched Sept. 10 with full-page ads in such newspapers as the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, the campaign was organized by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities.

The campaign includes a Web site and a “best practices” brochure that highlights campus programs aimed at combating binge drinking, as well as other information related to this serious public health issue.

Binge drinking is defined as the consumption of five or more drinks in one sitting by a male, four or more by a female. According to a national survey, more than 40 percent of today’s college students binge drink, 20 percent of them three or more times in a two-week period.

The public awareness campaign was the idea of Graham Spanier, president of Pennsylvania State University and chair of the Kellogg Commission, a panel of NASULGC presidents and external advisers that is issuing a series of open letters recommending ways public universities can adapt to better serve society.

“Many of us on college campuses and in the local communities where our institutions are located have been focusing on the problem of high-risk binge drinking for several years now,” Spanier said. “But if we are going to succeed in addressing this public health issue, we need the interest and support of the general public.”

Royster Harper, interim vice president for student affairs, is pleased that the University is participating in the national campaign to draw wider attention to the issue.

“We have long recognized that students sometimes indulge in excessive drinking, particularly first-year students who are experiencing new freedoms and responsibilities for themselves. This is not a simple problem and there is no simple solution.

This wallet card, with information on alcohol poisoning symptoms and actions to take on one side and late-night transportation options on the other, was distributed at summer orientation sessions and is available from the Office of New Student Programs and University Health Service.
“The University has had a number of programs in place for some time and is continually developing new approaches,” she adds. “We have a solid set of recommendations from the Binge Drinking Committee that were released this summer, and are moving to take action on them. Our efforts, however, have to involve all members of the Michigan community. We welcome any opportunity—such as participation in this national campaign—to raise awareness of binge drinking and its serious consequences.”

Spanier noted that “it is not unusual for students who come to our colleges and universities to already be experienced binge drinkers. It may be too late for some of those students if we wait until they begin college to address the problem. Too many students are ending up in the emergency rooms of local hospitals. Students are dropping out of college before graduating, and much of the crime involving college students—including assaults, vandalism, disorderly conduct and sexual assault—are related to the excessive consumption of alcohol.

“If we can reduce the amount of high-risk drinking taking place,” Spanier added, “we can save lives and we can make our communities safer places.”

Spanier also noted that it is “important to understand that the kind of drinking going on today is very different from what parents might remember when they attended high school or college. For some young people, it is drinking with the sole purpose of getting intoxicated.

“I believe the vast majority of students welcome the chance to be responsible. They need our encouragement and support.”

Penn State took the lead role in raising funds to help pay for the campaign and its staff is coordinating the effort with NASULGC.

Funding also has been provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Barnes & Noble and participating institutions. The ads were prepared pro bono by the Philadelphia-based advertising agency Tierney & Partners.

The Web site, which includes links to many others across the country, is located at www.nasulgc.org/bingedrink.

NASULGC is a voluntary organization of public research universities, land-grant institutions and many state university systems. Its members enroll more than 3.2 million students.