Alcohol consumption statistics similar to last year’s, Safety and Security incidents increase

by Cassandra Thomas | 2/4/19 3:00am

As part of their campaign to increase transparency when it comes to alcohol usage on campus, the Student Wellness Center released data from 2018 with revealing statistics about alcohol consumption among students. While most of the data stayed the same or close to last year’s figures, alcohol-related incidents with Safety and Security and/or Residential Education increased by 49 incidences.

Many groups and individuals on campus watch these numbers with scrutiny to improve Dartmouth culture and the safety of students. The data compares alcohol-related incidents with Safety and Security and/or Residential Education, Good Samaritan calls, medical encounters with blood alcohol levels above .25 and medical encounters with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center or health services.

The Student Wellness Center began collecting data on alcohol consumption in 2011, when there were 62 blood alcohol concentration encounters above .25. For Caitlin Barthelmes, director of the Student Wellness Center, this high number of BACs above .25 was especially troubling, considering that a BAC above .25 approaches a lethal limit. That number now tends to stay under 1 percent despite some fluctuation year to year.

“2011 was the first year we started monitoring, and it was the first year that we recommitted to putting best practices in terms of alcohol prevention on our campus, and intervention and response,” Barthelmes said. “And so almost immediately we saw this number drop. And yes, it has been fluctuating over time, but the fact that we’re still hovering below 1 percent of the population in my mind is important.”

Another closely-watched statistic is the number of Good Samaritan calls made each year, which allow students to seek medical help without facing punishment from the school. Good Samaritan calls increased over the past three years until 2018, when they dropped from 131 to 117 calls. 

Hannah Hoffman ’19, director of Dartmouth EMS, said she was heartened that students are often using the Good Samaritan policy.

“These figures demonstrate that students continue to make use of the Good Samaritan policy, a trend that our organization certainly appreciates and will work to maintain,” Hoffman wrote in an email statement.

Barthelmes is not the only one who has noticed considerable changes in campus in the last few years. Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis has observed the ways in which policy has changed campus culture.

When the College announced the Moving Dartmouth Forward Initiative in tandem with the hard alcohol ban, the impact could be seen by the police department, he said, and added that their numbers are smaller than they were five years ago.

“You look at our numbers from 2016 to 2017, we had 41 [alcohol related offenses] and 2017 to 2018 we had 44,” Dennis said. “So, fairly close together, but if you looked at numbers back in 2010, 2011, or 2012 they were significantly higher than that.”

Barthelmes said that the Student Wellness Center is watching closely to see how alterations at the institutional level play out on campus.

“It is necessary and important to consider a variety of data in order to better understand the full picture of the landscape of drinking behaviors and initiatives on our campus,” Barthelmes said. “No one data point can tell the whole story.”

Although the data must be analyzed as a whole, certain pieces of information can reveal different parts about the culture surrounding alcohol consumption on campus. The alcohol-related incidents with Safety and Security and/or Res Ed, for example, don’t necessarily indicate high risk drinking, according to Barthelmes.

“People sometimes look at alcohol-related incidents with concern when they go up, but I actually don’t feel that way,” she explains. “Sometimes when alcohol-related incidents with Safety and Security in Res Ed are increasing, that might be an indication that we might be catching things earlier in the drinking process. It could be, not always, but it could be an indication that our prevention efforts are actually going in the right direction.”

While these figures are used to alter policy and rules on campus, real change is fundamentally determined by students. 

“Culture change ultimately does, when we’re talking about student behavior ... come from students,” Barthelmes said. “I’ve been very encouraged in my time here by the fact that the majority of students actually engage in positive, healthy behaviors more often than we think. Something that can happen, especially if you’re in a very fast paced culture, is we [act] without thinking. To take time to pause, reflect, connect and have some intent can actually help us live lives that are more in accordance with who we want to be.”