Panel serves up strategies to deter drinking

Robin Huiras

Alcohol abuse has become the University’s biggest problem, said some University officials at a conference held Monday in Coffman Union.
Combatting alcohol abuse among students was the focus of a workshop by University 2000, a series of discussions on student service. A teleconference and panel discussion presented solutions to this national problem.
Ralph Rickgarn, coordinator of student behavior for the Office of Housing and Residential life, said the university environment fosters alcohol abusive behavior.
For example, local bars run cheap tap specials and run ads in local publications, and alcohol is prevalent at sporting events. Students of legal age could even go to the campus club and order a drink, Rickgarn said.
In order to change many of the perceptions students have about drinking, it is important to change attitudes, he added.
Junior and high schoolers must be targeted, said Amelious Whyte, coordinator of chemical health programs for Boyton Health Services. Parents need to educate their children and more effective programming should be put into place, he said.
“There is a perception among parents that drinking is a part of college,” said Joy Rikala, University chief of police. However, when the parents of today’s students attended college, drinking legally was never at issue, she added. Twenty years ago, the legal drinking age was 18.
But Rikala said there is a problem today, and it must be confronted openly.
“College campuses are a reflection of society at large,” said Rikala. “Society has accepted drinking, so must universities.” In order to combat the problem she said people need to look at the university demographics as a whole, not only the underage population.
Community involvement is also a big part of the solution, said Rikala. “Sober cabs receiving free (nonalcoholic) drinks or limiting 25-cent tap nights would deter alcohol abuse,” she said.
It is important to integrate solutions into society, rather than segregate the problems, said Jim Rothenberger, an epidemiology instructor.
“Reducing access to underagers and education are two strategies,” he said.
There needs to be discussion, said Whyte. Is drinking completely bad, or is it OK when done responsibly are the questions officials and administrators must address, he said.
“The complete prohibition of alcohol is a band-aid solution that will not last,” said Janine Zayed, a senior health advocate and resident assistant in Pioneer Hall. Other options such as student involvement and outreach should be considered, she said
“Older students should reach out to younger students and provide activities not related to alcohol,” Zayed said.
Ryan Demmer, alcohol awareness chair and a member of the Interfraternity Council, said that smaller changes need to be put in place to get rid of alcohol, especially in some fraternities where it is more prevalent.
The University provides several organizations, support groups and centers for information on combatting alcohol abuse and finding solutions to this problem.
Boyton Health Service and University Counseling and Support Services are available for modest fees to people seeking help. In addition, Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous hold weekly support meetings, school officials stressed.