GW emphasizes responsible drinking

The University began a week-long series of events Saturday to encourage students to drink responsibly.

A jazz reception with dessert and coffee began GW’s lineup for National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week, which promotes programs offered through the Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education.

Our goal is if you choose to drink, we want you to make responsible decisions to prevent very major and serious events from happening, said Brian Hamluck, manager of CADE.

While GW statistics from a 1999 CORE survey show binge drinking levels at GW match the national average at 44 percent, officials said they are still concerned about dangerous alcohol consumption practices of students. The survey defines binge drinking for men as drinking five of more drinks in a row, and four or more drinks for women.

Experts first began studying college binge drinking in 1993 when Henry Wechsler, a Harvard researcher, found that 44 percent of students were binge drinking. According to 1999 nationwide statistics, that percentage remains the same.

The (CORE) survey at GW has confirmed that underage drinking is going on, Hamluk said. If you choose to break the law then we’ll give you the resources that can help you be safe.

Other alcohol awareness week activities at GW include events such as Kegs at the Marvin Center, which will feature a root beer keg, a coffeehouse at Mount Vernon campus showcasing Solazo – a five-member Latin band led by the Chilean musician Pepe Aranda – and Mocktails in Thurston Hall. The events are designed to give students alternatives to drinking.

The dangers of underage drinking hit home for D.C. universities last year when Georgetown University junior David Shick died after a Feb. 18 altercation with other students after returning from drinking at a local bar. Shick fell and hit his head on the pavement and died four days later from head injuries.

Presidents and deans from universities nationwide will visit D.C. next week for a national conference to address drinking on college campuses and recent alcohol-related student deaths.

GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg will give the conference’s opening address, titled The American Campus and Alcohol.

The conference, hosted by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, explores the question of how campuses control drinking without reinventing prohibition or creating a totalitarian environment, Trachtenberg said.

Sending the message of responsible or moderate drinking is a change from recent years, when colleges nationwide used scare tactics, such as graphic photos and lectures, aimed at reducing binge drinking.

Experts say the scare tactic campaigns may have actually increased binge drinking, according to an Oct. 3 New York Times article.

We just want to know if there’s a way universities can educate students to the dangers of alcohol through educational ways, Trachtenberg said. This is what we’re supposed to be doing anyway.

Hamluk trains members of student groups how to serve alcohol responsibly at social functions.

He said the events this week are a nice mix of information sessions and alcohol-free programs.

We want to let students know some resources that are out there, Hamluk said.

-Ashley M. Heher contributed to this report.

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