Regents to examine student drinking

High-risk drinking is defined as having five or more drinks in one sitting.

by Anna Weggel

High-risk drinking has the most immediate potential to harm students, according to a new Boynton Health Service survey.

Ed Ehlinger, director of Boynton Health Service, said he’s most concerned about high-risk drinking because of the problems that come with it, such as fights, drunken driving and property damage.

“Even though (drinking) rates are lower here than most other schools, they’re still at a high level,” he said.

High-risk drinking is defined as having five or more drinks in one sitting.

Ehlinger is presenting the survey results, which deal with risky student behaviors, at today’s Board of Regents meeting.

Ehlinger said the regents asked him to present the results so they can get an overview of the behaviors for general interest.

“I hope it will have them recognize that risky behaviors that students choose will affect not only physical, emotional and mental health, but also academic health,” he said.

Some of the behaviors discussed in the survey are credit card debt, drug use, gambling and high-risk drinking.

But Ehlinger said the discussion is mostly meant for background and context.

“There is no crisis here,” he said. “There is no one issue that is really overwhelming everything else.”

University graduate and employee Rob Vork said that when he attended the University three years ago, he did not see drinking as the biggest problem.

“I was more concerned with general intolerance and bigotry around,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing I thought could be addressed.”

Vork said he would occasionally see people walking around “sloppy drunk,” but it seemed to be a normal college occurrence.

The survey said 30.5 percent of students reported having ridden in a car with an intoxicated driver.

The survey stated 11.2 percent of undergraduates ages 18-24 have used illegal drugs within the last 12 months.

The survey also reported that 72.4 percent of students ages 18-24 have consumed alcohol in the last 30 days, and 36.7 percent of undergraduates ages 18-24 have engaged in “high-risk” drinking.

David Golden, director of public health and marketing for Boynton Health Service, said the report is good and bad.

“This information is really cool, because it really helps us a lot to craft programs and services,” he said.

Golden said he thinks the study will give the regents a good picture of what students are like.

“There are always a lot of preconceived notions about students and student life,” he said. “I think mostly (the regents will) be surprised that in general they’ll find we really have a pretty healthy and responsible sort of population.”

The results came from two Boynton Health Service surveys done in 2003 and 2004. Ehlinger said the 2004 survey was based on a random sample of 6,000 students, with more than 3,000 students answering. The response rate was 55 percent. The 2003 alcohol and drug survey was a random sample of 6,000, with approximately a 40 percent response rate.