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BINGE DRINKING UP AT UND

IN-HOUSE REPORT FINDS STUDENTS ARE EXCEEDING NATIONAL AVERAGE

 

UND students exceed their counterparts in alcohol binge drinking, according to a report commissioned by Robert Boyd, vice president of student outreach services.

The university is discussing its alcohol policy, including consumption at tailgating before football games. Allowing alcohol sales in the new Engelstad Arena and at UND sports events that will be held at the city's Alerus Center may also be discussed in the near future.

THE FINAL REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON STUDENT USE OF ALCOHOL INDICATES THAT 52 PERCENT OF UND STUDENTS WERE BINGE DRINKERS IN 1998, THE YEAR STATISTICS WERE LAST GATHERED.

Binge drinking was defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks at one sitting during the previous two weeks. Nationally, 42.7 percent of college students said they were binge drinkers, according to a 1998 Harvard study.

The UND report shows that most students - 90 percent - younger than the legal drinking age of 21 said they had drunk alcohol during the previous 30 days, which also compares with national numbers, Boyd said Wednesday. (But a report released a few months after the the publishing of this article reveals booze on campus is declining nationally).

Boyd said he was uncertain why alcohol abuse is increasing on college campuses, but some surveys show that many freshmen are bringing bad habits with them to college from high schools and homes.

National average

Our statistics are very similar to what you will find as the national average, said Boyd, adding that UND is fortunate because it hasn't had any high profile accidents due to alcohol abuse. Binge drinking statistics have increased at universities across the country in recent years, and such drinking has resulted in some avoidable accidents, he added.

But the UND report wasn't commissioned only as a way to prove the university's students are among the abusers. Such abuse was already known - statistics included in the report were gathered in 1994 and updated in 1998; the commission completed the report during the 1999-2000 academic year.

Boyd said he first appointed a task force to address alcohol policies that were perhaps outdated and needed changing.

There was no crisis, he said. There was no mandate that forced us to form the commission. It really grew out of a relatively specific and simple task force that I appointed. Once the task force completed its work, it took its recommendations to the university's student policy committee for review. The policy committee, however, felt the task force was too narrow in its research, Boyd said.

It was focused on high-risk stuff, he said. He then organized the alcohol commission. I went to the committee and said `I think you're right.'

Often met weekly

Since 1999, the 21-member commission often met weekly to review alcohol statistics and compile a final 100-page report of recommendations, findings and reasons why - among other less important items - alcohol abuse is harmful.  Boyd said it's not his position to catch students behaving inappropriately or illegally. The commission's purpose isn't to crack down on UND students, he said. Its purpose is to help students - the majority of the commission's members are students. Whenever a university address here relate to that very high-risk behavior. He said students who abuse alcohol are often poor academic performers. Alcohol abuse also creates safety concerns - 90 percent of all university rapes in the country involve the use of alcohol, according to the report.

Could end career

And for some students, an alcohol-related criminal offense could end a career. Boyd said aviation and law students are warned, as an example, about what could happen if they are arrested for drunken driving.

He said he purposely included a majority of students on the commission because alcohol use at UND is obviously an issue that involves the students. If the commission included only staff, students wouldn't take much leadership in the findings or recommendations, he said.<The role I have is to be supportive, Boyd said. The students are the ones who can change (their) behavior.

Source: Grand Forks Herald, July 14, 2000