“Do Something about Alcohol Abuse,” (2016) — Inquiry 3

Dear President Hodge:

As a freshman who has been at Miami University for more than half a year, I must say that coming here to study is the best decision that I have ever made. This charming University has changed me a lot during such a short time. I am satisfied when I feel curious about the new chapter in Statistics and would like to spend time on studying it. I enjoy when I can walk around such a beautiful campus to relax myself after tackling one more challenge in academics. I am also grateful to be learning and realizing in my English class how to use my own ability to make this community better. However, everything has its drawbacks, even on Miami’s campus. As a student who has not yet gone, nor has any intentions to go to any parties, I still strongly feel that alcohol abuse is a big issue in this small town.  I suggest that rather than using alcohol policy to change this phenomenon, it is more efficient to change the campus environment through several ways to make students’ college life more interesting. Trusting that you are a responsible president, I believe you will make a right decision to approach the reduction of drinking problems by striving to create a safer, healthier, and more fulfilling environment after reading my propositions.

Alcohol abuse is one big problem spreading in America. According to NIAAA research, about half of all college students are consuming alcohol through binge drinking, which has negative effects on health. Horrible consequences of excessive drinking cause people to notice that problem. Each year, the number of students between the ages of 18 and 24 who incur alcohol-related, unintentional injuries is reaching 599,000. More than 97,000 students experience alcohol-related sexual assault or rape during their valuable time between 18 to 24 years old. More than 150,000 students develop alcohol-related health problems (NIAAA). Colleges always work at preparing the best time for people to study and to fight for their dream, but such painful consequences still arise again and again each year on campus. At Miami University, many freshmen choose alcohol to celebrate their transition from high school to college. According to The Miami Student, after the first month on campus, almost 10 percent of freshmen become high-risk drinkers; moreover, compared to national data, a larger percentage of Miami students find out that they have become moderate to high-risk drinkers after coming to college (“Going”). Those remarkable numbers are constant reminders that truly effective methods have yet to be constructed to solve the drinking problems.

Fortunately, many people in Miami University have already realized the importance of dealing with drinking problems, thereby, establishing the alcohol policies and alcohol abuse education to protect students’ health and wellness. The Good Samaritan Policy offers a way for students to get the emergency help for alcohol or drugs abuse (Furnas). It gives chances for students to restart their college life through providing one exemption each year from a violation; moreover, they are required to take education courses. This policy can save students’ lives and teach them, but it cannot change the drinking culture on campus. The other rule from Miami police department is that first-year students are required to complete substance abuse education and a comprehensive substance abuse assessment. According to my personal experience, the education lasts only a few short hours; after few months, I have difficulty recalling even the most important information from the education. At the same time, while most first-year students hold positive attitude toward drinking culture, the AlcoholEdu does little to change their expectation. I have noticed many girls all dressed up going to uptown’s bars around midnight when I am returning from King Library to my residence hall. It is common for me to see girls who drink too much and vomit in the bathroom in my residence hall every week.

Based on these common occurrence, it is obvious that the alcohol policies do not adequately address the alcohol problems, so a better solution is needed to deal with the drinking culture on campus. The cause of inefficiency can be traced to how the drinking culture is spread in this area.  In “Students examine local bars’ influence on drinking culture”, Wood states that Ohio is one of the 45 states to allow underage alcohol consumption under certain circumstances, and in Oxford, three out of more than ten bars allow 18-year-old students to enjoy the nightlife; at the same time, the small size of campus and the three bars which are close together let students to consume alcohol more conveniently (Wood). The uptown bars entice students’ desires to drink alcohol through providing rewards like alcohol discounts or a special T-shirt by purchasing three drinks per day for fourteen days. Some Miami students admit that even though they do not want to drink for a day, they still choose to keep drinking for the challenge (Wester). Under this environment, the existing alcohol policies cannot work efficiently on campus.

Dartmouth College, having the same campus environment as Miami University, is famous for its strong Greek system which causes higher alcohol abuse. It has announced its unique alcohol policy that it will ban hard liquor, forbid pledging at fraternities, and require sororities to reduce binge drinking. Two months after Dartmouth established the policy, the University of Pennsylvania, ranked as No.1 party school, also published a new ban on all beverages that contain fifteen percent or more alcohol to campus residences and all events held by student groups (Schroeder). Toward off-campus events, Penn’s new policy will also enforce its stronger power on, and around, campus. While some students feel confident in the new policy, which will benefit students by making campus environment safer and more secure, other students think that this new policy only works for improving Penn’s images but not for changing the way students socialize (Schroeder). The new alcohol policies from two colleges may work during the first few months, but they cannot change the long-term drinking culture on campus so that I do not predict much success of either policy at Miami University. Students in college may be more likely to binge drink because they will either feel excited to challenge the university’s policy, or they will choose to move the drinking party further away from campus. The extreme policy can limit students’ desire to drink alcohol, but it cannot change their real attitude towards alcohol. When they leave the campus and work in the society, their desire to drink alcohol will continue to cause them to face the dangers of binge drinking. Therefore, rather than announcing new alcohol policies, university department should spend more time studying the underlying reasons as to why students drink so much, and then focus on providing more effective resources to educate students.

The first-year students’ experience during the first few weeks on campus tend to play a significant role in how they will choose to embrace college life. As a freshman, I felt pretty excited when I got my student ID printed, and I also made a long study plan for the first semester at university. While I chose to be a “nerd”, some students were attracted by parties and bars which provided chance for them to experience drinking culture; they frequently went out on Friday night. Too many students have the expectation of the drinking culture when they come to college, and they also consider that nightlife during which people follow the crowd and keep drinking all night at bars, is one necessary part of college life (“Going”). Under such expectation, the AlcoholEdu and alcohol policy are just fossilized rules for first-year students. After several months, the excitement of joining bars at night might begin to recede for freshmen, but the amount of drinking could continue to increase. Many Miami students are prone to also go to bars during the day because the prices of alcohol are lower than at night time (Kneep). Moreover, the bars uptown provide a more cognitive atmosphere for students to have a relaxing time when they face big pressures from their academics.

Based on the reasons why students are so into drinking culture, I propose some environment strategies to solve the alcohol problems. Before the freshmen come to campus, the Student Wellness department could begin to educate students about the knowledge of the negative aspects of the alcohol through email which could contain videos or the interesting stories about drinking. It could create interviews with people who used to be high-risk drinkers and record them as convincing videos and storybooks to give the incoming students practical suggestions toward addressing drinking problems.

At the same time, Student Wellness department needs to remind students that there are better club events and academic opportunities to reduce students’ reliance on alcohol as an avenue of release. It can advocate each organization to make videos to introduce itself and leave the contact information, and it will send them separately through email before students come to campus. I notice that even though there are more than 600 organizations on campus, I only receive a few notifications of activities each week. Therefore, during each semester, the organizations could work with some interesting stores uptown, such as like You’re Fired, to hold events, and they could frequently remind students of the coming events through various ways such as emails, posters, and so forth.

When the first-year students settle down in their halls, I would like to suggest that posters with electronic screen that show a healthy woman or man are installed on the gate of each hall. Beside the image, there are press-buttons marked as drinking alcohol. When students press the buttons, the figures will begin to drink, and their healthy organs will appear damaged after the alcohol flows through the entire body. At the end, the figures’ smiling faces will also change into pale and painful looking. Although the all processes may just take 30 seconds, it can convey an impressive message to students that alcohol brings destructive effects to a healthy body. Those big posters can work efficiently to decrease the desire of drinking when students are going out but still wonder whether they should go to the bars tonight. Rather than focusing on the limited time of Alcoholedu, the suggestions above can influence students’ attitude toward drinking every moment before they come to university and during their hall life. While my proposition could be a good start, Student Wellness department would need to buy 47 digital posters, one for each residence hall; this means that the total cost for the project would be $94,000 since each digital poster costs $2000. Therefore, I suggest that the department could install the digital posters at the three first-year students’ halls that have more alcohol problems than other halls, and then keep placing three posters on the rest of halls each year. In this way the huge amount of cost can be separated into several small parts, making the strategy easier for the department to implement. Miami University could also charge the students an extra $10 fee per semester to fund this project.

Moreover, a sophomore student reported that the reason why students fall into alcohol problems deeper and deeper is that they spend most of their time with other drinkers, and the students who never drink choose to not to associate with high-risk drinkers (Osterloh). As the result, facing the students who have already become high-risk drinkers, I suggest that Student Health Center can build an organization called HELPERS which would enable students who used to drink a lot but gave up the poor habit to help the students in trouble to get far away from drinking problems. The people in same age group could have more common opinions, making the communication more impactful between the helpers and the people who need help. The school can spread the contact information through the digital posters mentioned above and by sending the free notebooks with the introduction and contact information of HELPERS in the Bookstore. While most high-risk drinkers might not consider seriously changing their ways until they face serious health problems, people can refer the drinkers to this organization. A following conversation between helpers and people in trouble would be mandatory. They could have dinner or lunch together at least twice per week; during that time, helpers will share their abstinence experience to change others’ perspectives toward drinking, and high-risk drinkers could discuss their real feelings about the nightlife and seek help from helpers. There would also be a group discussion each week that people in trouble could gather together to share their experiences and to support each other. This organization will also be responsible for the helpers’ safety by checking that they are not affected by drinkers in variable times.

The drinking culture has already become a big problem with a long history for most colleges, and a standard policy would not change the current situation too much. My propositions may be hard to show the advantages to change the drinking phenomenon in a short time because Miami University needs time to improve the several parts of campus environment to provide more resources for students to enjoy their campus life. When students find more meaningful things to do on campus, drinking culture would become a past experience. Students will discover that bars are not the only choices for them anymore. They will not miss the good moments because of alcohol abuse during college life. I am looking forward to a safer and more resourceful university in this small town.


Cited Work

Furnas, Callie. “Alcohol policy keeps students safe”. The Miami Student. The Miami

Student.com. 5 December. 2014. Web. 26 March. 2015.

“Going out tonight? Drinking culture should be a question, not an expectation”. The Miami

Student. The Miami Student.com. 10 March. 2015. Web. 26 March. 2015

Knepp, Sarah. “A hard day’s night: student prefer day drinking”. The Miami Student. The

Miami Student.com. 21 October. 2014. Web. 01 April. 2015.

NIAAA. “College Drinking”. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. College

Drinking Prevention.gov. July 2015. Web. 26 March. 2015.

Osterloh, Elizabeth. Personal Interview. 07 April. 2015.

Schroeder, Ellie. “Joke Issue: Penn bans hard alcohol following new policies at Dartmouth,

Brown”. The Daily Pennsylvanian. The Daily Pennsylvanian.com. 25 March. 2015. Web. 01 April. 2015.

Wester, Amelia. “Bars entice students with drink challenges”. The Miami Student. The

Miami student.com. 31 August. 2012. Web. 26 March. 2015.

Wood, Maddie. “Students examine local bars’ influence on drinking culture”. The Miami

Student. The Miami Student.com. 13 March. 2015. Web. 26 March. 2015.