GW considers recent statistics as University targets binge drinking

(JayGW senior Tobi Brown said she witnessed how substance abuse destroyed homes, broke up families and limited the potential of otherwise impressive young people when she lived at home.

That’s why she lives substance-free, said Brown, who lived in the inner city of Detroit before coming to GW.

According to a college alcohol study released Tuesday by the Harvard School of Public Health, the number of students like Brown, who refrained from drinking, is up from 15 percent in 1993 to 19 percent in 1999.

But the study also found that the number of frequent binge drinkers has risen on college campuses as well. Frequent binge drinkers were defined as men who drank five or more drinks and women who drank four or more drinks in one sitting, at least three times in the two weeks before taking the survey.

Frequent binge drinkers rose from about 20 percent in 1993 to 23 percent in 1999.

University administrators said they already are taking the appropriate measures to curb high-risk drinking on campus.

D.C. colleges and universities, including GW, are continuing to examine alcohol issues in light of a recent tragedy at Georgetown University. Last month, a 20-year-old Georgetown student suffered a head injury (and died) in an alcohol-fueled fight with other students, according to the March 12 Washington Post.

Metropolitan Police recently invited GW Dean of Students Linda Donnels to participate in a meeting hosted by Georgetown University to discuss the alcohol culture and seek solutions to high-risk drinking on local campuses.

Candace Miller, manager of the GW Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education, said GW already was cognizant of the alcohol problems in D.C.

We certainly regret what happened at Georgetown, Miller said. But we were strong in our convictions already. She cited additional University-sponsored alcohol-free events and GW’s attempts to shun the excessive alcohol advertising targeting young people on campus.

Miller said GW administrators are challenged because the urban location makes bar and club propaganda more prevalent.

It’s in your face all the time, she said.

Senior Assistant Dean of Students Mike Walker said GW pays close attention to alcohol abuse among college students and will continue to take action. He said he found the Harvard study interesting because of the polarization of two extremes – an increase in the number of people who frequently binge drink and those who abstain from drinking alcohol.

But he knows which number must get the attention, he said.

It’s no secret that it’s the 23 percent that has all the colleges and universities a buzz, he said.

The study also showed that statistics about binge drinking in fraternity and sorority houses have remained the same, and the numbers are high. About 79 percent of Greek-letter members reported they binge drink.

Walker said GW fraternities are headed in the right direction because they have created a self-governance policy. Self-governance is a system in which fraternity men take charge of Greek-letter judicial hearings and hold each other accountable with less supervision from the University.

When the policy is officially implemented, fraternity men will tackle alcohol-related charges first, Walker said.

We have a group of fraternity men trying to take responsibility for their own process and behavior, he added.

As for Brown, the student who abstains from drinking alcohol, GW’s urban campus makes alcohol more available, she said. Brown went to the University of Michigan before transferring to GW, and she cited excessive palmcarding on the part of D.C. bars and clubs as part of the problem.

She said students can drink alcohol in moderation but said that does not prevent physical damage to a person’s body. Even one drink can be harmful, she added.

As a non-drinker, Brown said she sometimes feels awkward when she is around peers who are drinking. Overall, she said no one has ever questioned her decision to live substance-free.

You have to stand by your convictions, Brown said.

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