Alcohol a problem at all colleges

by Victoria McGrane | 11/18/99 6:00am

Despite the College's "Animal House" reputation, Dartmouth students are no better or worse than their peers when it comes to dangerous drinking, according to Margaret Smith, the College's coordinator of Alcohol and Other Drug Education Programs.

While there is high-risk alcohol use on campus, most students who drink do so moderately or minimally, Smith said.

"We're pretty equal to other schools," she said, adding that she does not see dangerous drinking at Dartmouth as being any more of a problem than other schools without active Greek systems.

In light of the Board of Trustees Social and Residential Life Initiative, both administrators and students have been focusing on the much reputed drinking culture at Dartmouth.

Smith said she thinks that such a focus on the College's drinking culture have sent incorrect and negative messages about Dartmouth, adding that schools without Greek systems have problems with alcohol and drugs as well.

"At least from my stance, I can't say that getting rid of the Greek system will eliminate drinking problems," Smith said.

According to Safety and Security Officer Robert Young, the 1997-98 national average for college campuses was one alcohol-related death a week.

The College has had no alcohol-related deaths since 1991, when an intoxicated student drowned in the Connecticut River, but during the last school year, Dick's House treated about 90 students for intoxication.

Eighteen of the 90 students had more serious blood alcohol levels and were sent to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center treatment.

According to the Safety and Security BlitzMail bulletin, four students have been admitted to DHMC for intoxication so far this term.

Director of Health Resources Gabrielle Lucke said that while she thinks Dartmouth is no worse than other institutions in terms of drinking, she thinks the College has been "lucky" that an alcohol-related death has not occurred in recent years.

"When there's high-risk use going on, it's inevitable that a tragedy will occur," she said. "And it doesn't have to be death. It could be rape."

Lucke said that alcohol is "the drug of choice" on most college campuses, but that some schools take a more active approach to addressing the alcohol problem.

"I think we're one of them," she said.

One of the measures taken at the College is alcohol education and awareness. For example, the Coed Fraternity and Sorority Council requires that all pledge classes invite Young to discuss the dangers of drinking.

"I really stress the point that we all have to watch out for each other," Young said. "My general feeling is that students are being responsible in that way."

Lucke defined high-risk drinking as the point that a person's mental, physical and sensory functions have become severely impaired.

"This is the person that is beyond sloppy drunk," she said.

Warning symptoms include nausea and vomiting as well as loss of consciousness. While the blood-alcohol level at this point varies between individuals, students who come into Dick's House with a Blood Alcohol Content of .25 or higher are taken to DHMC.

Lucke said that people who reach this level of intoxication are also at risk of becoming asphyxiated from choking on their vomit or are at risk for serious injury.

"We see students from time to time with blood alcohol levels that put them in the category of near death," she said. "My concern is that there are more students at that level that never seek help."