Colleges address the issue of student drinking through many initiatives

With college students back in town, Duluth higher learning institutes have their alcohol awareness programs up and running. All three campuses have campaigns to inform their students of the dangers associated with alcohol. They each also have str...

With college students back in town, Duluth higher learning institutes have their alcohol awareness programs up and running.

All three campuses have campaigns to inform their students of the dangers associated with alcohol. They each also have strict alcohol policies.

The University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD), the College of St. Scholastica (CSS) and Lake Superior College (LSC) all have information on their Web sites about health risks, treatment options and where to go for help in dealing with an alcohol-related problem.

Lake Superior College also distributes flyers containing information at five points on campus and places posters around campus about the dangers of alcohol abuse, said Jolette Gregorich, MA, RN, LSC Health Services Coordinator.

The College of St. Scholastica has a group of peer health educators who work on alcohol and other drug awareness on campus. In December, the group did a drunk driving simulation with goggles for students and staff. The school also provides posters, speakers and different programs throughout the year. Some of the programs put a focus on violence prevention which is often connected with alcohol use, said Tad Sears, CSS director of the Student Center for Health and Well Being.


The University of Minnesota Duluth focuses its efforts on two subgroups of students. The first group is comprised of non-, light and moderate drinkers. The second group is the heavy drinkers, said Eric Weldy, UMD associate vice chancellor for academic support and student life.

The college tries to reach heavy drinkers with information about resources that can help them both on and off campus. The college targets light drinkers to make sure they stay in that category, Weldy said.

College student use and abuse of alcohol happens nationwide. Colleges and universities all over the country are constantly developing new programs to inform students of the risks.

The past couple of years at UMD have seen a few student deaths. Those deaths have brought the issue of student drinking to the forefront for the university, Weldy said. "The most important thing is the students' health and their well being and their safety," he said. "I really believe that one student death that is alcohol-related is one too many."

CSS focuses on informing its students about alcohol poisoning by sending out laminated cards with information about the signs of alcohol poisoning and what to do if a friend has alcohol poisoning, Sears said.

The school also sends out cards to students on their birthday, reminding them to be responsible about drinking, he said.

It is important that students realize drinking heavily can lead to death or other risks, he said. "Anyone who has been that age knows that you think you're invincible. ... It can happen to any of us, and students need to be made aware of that."

One challenge for the universities is that most students have started drinking long before they ever get to college.


According to a 2003 report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Web site, nearly 50 percent of children have had at least one drink by the time they reach eighth grade and 20 percent have been drunk. By the 12th grade, 30 percent of children report drinking three or more times per month, and 30 percent report having participated in binge drinking (defined as five or more drinks on one occasion) in the past two weeks.

UMD has begun targeting students before they reach the campus.

Before the start of the school year, UMD sent a letter to parents of new students from the chancellor and vice chancellor for academic support and student life.

The letter informs parents about a number of issues students will encounter in college. Drinking is one of them. It gives parents the chance to talk with their children about alcohol before they begin college, Weldy said.

UMD Chemical Health Educator Lauretta Perry developed a program to connect UMD students with high schoolers at Denfeld, Central and East high schools and at Marshall School. The college students are trained to educate high schoolers about alcohol.

High schoolers feel that college students can relate to them, so they listen to the information more than they would if an older adult was speaking with them, Perry said.

Perry also speaks at the LSC campus to all students and staff members who wish to attend.

UMD also is looking at creating an online seminar for parents as another way to alert them about drinking on college campuses, Weldy said.


The university already offers a one credit online course for freshmen that focuses on the dangers of drinking, Weldy said.

CSS holds a skit and discussion about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs for new students during its Welcome Weekend, Sears said.

To help students with drinking problems, UMD offers Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on campus once a week. It is also starting a Roommate Recovery Program this year, where students who are recovering from alcohol addiction can sign up to room with one another, Perry said.

Another way UMD attempts to address the issue of student drinking indirectly is through its Better Neighbors program, which identifies college housing off campus and alerts community members living nearby of where the students live. This program attempts to bridge the gap between the community and students.

This Labor Day weekend, the Duluth Police Department used a Community Crime Prevention Grant from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to hire police officers on overtime to respond to party calls. The police responded to 36 complaints of parties over the weekend and 97 people were cited for underage consumption of alcohol, two were cited for drinking alcohol in public, one was cited for underage drinking and driving among other citations and two had arrests related to parties, according to a Duluth Police press release.

A Campus-Community Alcohol Task Force was established in 2001 to address the issue of off-campus student parties and assess student attitude toward alcohol. The task force includes staff and student representatives from LSC, UMD and the College of St. Scholastica as well as community members, city of Duluth officials, bar owners, landlords and other community leaders. The three schools also work together on the Alcohol and Other Drug Awareness Task Force. "It's such a huge issue," Perry said. "And if we can collaborate, our community will be stronger."

While alcohol use and abuse is a large issue for college students, it isn't the only issue. The colleges also focus on helping students with depression, mental health issues, student gambling, relationship issues, lack of sleep and problems with stress.

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