One College Campus May Have Found the Answer to Its Binge Drinking Problem
With college campuses under more scrutiny after recent assault issues, the topic of underage and binge drinking is at the forefront. One university is finding that the best way to deal with the issue is to stop ignoring it and confront it head-on with local law enforcement, students, parents and businesses as partners.
Frostburg State University in Maryland is like many other universities in the US. It's dealing with a party culture that promotes binge drinking and results in student injuries and death, as well as poor grades, mental health issues and sexual assaults.
When Jonathan Gibralter became the president of Frostburg State in 2006, it was a culture he was determined to turn around. And years later, it looks like he has. The number of students who binge drink at least once every two weeks at FSU has decreased from 57% to 41% and the average number of drinks students report having each week has been cut in half, dropping from eight to four.
“The thing that’s so striking to me is that many universities perceive [binge drinking] as an intractable problem and that there’s nothing they can do,” said Gibralter.
To keep the issue in check, FSU has enlisted the help of local law enforcement by first offering to help pay overtime costs to keep the streets filled with officers on big party weekends and then by making an agreement that gives Frostburg’s campus officers and city police joint jurisdiction in certain areas. They've taken more responsibility for the issue by adding more Friday morning classes to cut down on Thursday night partying and by holding alcohol-free campus events with giveaways and prizes to keep students away from house parties.
The campus has also done a big promotional push to show students that everyone is indeed not drinking by putting up posters that say “Not Everyone’s Doing It: 36% of FSU students reported they did not drink alcohol in the last 30 days.”
University officials have also gotten the support of local business and bar owners by offering training on how to spot fake IDs. And, when they get pushback from parents and alumni who drank in college and don’t see it as an issue, Gibralter said he tells “parents that 1,800-plus college students drink themselves to death every year” and that gets them on board.