President of Tulane University, Michael A. Fitts, recently wrote an op-ed for Fox News, where he encourages parents to talk to their children about the dangers of substance abuse, specifically on college campuses. Fitts sparks an important conversation that should extend beyond the home to students and their peers.
Fitts himself points out that, “Nationally, 7 out of 10 college students drink regularly, and 3 out of 10 will be problem drinkers.” Further research finds that annually, 1,825 college students die due to alcohol-related injuries. 696,000 students are assaulted by students who have been drinking, with 97,000 reporting alcohol related sexual assault. And in terms of grades, 1 in 4 students admit to some sort of academic consequences as a result of their drinking habits.
Realistically, rules on campus can only do so much to prevent the negative effects of substance abuse on students. The real difference maker is in the campus culture. Fitts says, “[We] all have to work together to avoid sending any signals that make us complicit in a culture of alcohol and other drug abuse.”
This is where colleges fail. I hear messages on campus and in media that “College kids are going to be college kids,” and “As long as I don’t see it (alcohol)….” Thus it is communicated that underage drinking, even binge drinking, is acceptable with a few rules given elsewhere: no driving, never be alone, no sex unless a clear “yes.” These rules cannot and, as statistics show, will not prevent tragedy.
As just one example, in 2013, a sophomore at my college, Saint Bonaventure University, froze to death after leaving a party intoxicated. The student was likely too drunk to walk home safely in the middle of the night. In my mandatory freshman class, my professor emphasized the need to ensure intoxicated students are never left alone, one of the unwritten and ineffectual rules.
This is why the real message needs to be “Don’t get drunk.” The fewer intoxicated students there are, the fewer alcohol-related deaths and sexual assaults there will be. Meanwhile, students will be more focused on improving their grades.
Moving to solutions, Fitts asks “How do we find ways to convince students to create communities around other activities and traditions, to find fun and friendship without binge drinking?” There is no simple answer to this tremendously difficult question. However, I believe the key is within the quality of relationships. College is an important time to create lifelong friends and memories, so students should want to make memories they can actually remember the next day.
College is supposed to be the start of adulthood, but some universities have allowed their campuses to turn into an alcoholic playground. As Fitts writes, “Universities must balance the freedom necessary for students to become adults with the risks to their health and safety.”
Let them chose, but it’s time for colleges to do so while promoting a culture of self-responsibility.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.