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Drinking without thinking

This past Saturday marked the one year anniversary of the death of University student Jordan Shirey. The cause of his death: alcohol poisoning. It was his 21st birthday.

The tragedy did not result in any change to University policy, but binge drinking still remains a hot button issue within the University community.

“Our policy is pretty consistent with many universities across the country,” Director of Public Safety James Wiegand said. “I mean, is there alcohol on campus? Yes. If you look at the blotter, you see numerous young people who are cited for underage under the influence, we just try to take action when we see a violation.”

Wiegand said he knows that there are some underage students on campus who use and abuse alcohol, but that they are the minority.

The biggest concern on campus is when students play “21 drinks” on their 21st birthday, Wiegand said.

“Our systems are not set up to consume that much alcohol,” Wiegand said.

The University is now set up to try to prevent games such as this taking place.

Associate Dean of Students Michael Ginsburg said the University sends out a birthday e-mail to students on their 21st birthday. He said the purpose is to warn them of the dangers of binge drinking and over-consumption.

“There are always going to be individuals who choose to drink,” Ginsburg said. “When they do, they can show behaviors that don’t represent themselves or the University.”

Ginsburg said his office is responsible for dealing with students who are referred to student discipline for drinking-related matters.

He agreed with Wiegand about underage drinking occurring regardless of the efforts made to stop it and noted that repeat offenses of documented cases can result in suspension from the University.

“Students who choose to drink underage are breaking the law and there are consequences to that,” Ginsburg said.

When students are sent through the discipline process for alcohol-related offenses, they are typically sent to one of two classes run through the University’s Wellness Connection in Student Health Service.

The first class, View Points, is for first-time offenders and is used as a way to try to get students back on the right track, said Carrie Arndt, an alcohol and drug counselor at the Wellness Connection. The class is conducted by a trained graduate student and focuses on how alcohol is impacting the students’ lives.

The second class, Perspectives, is for students who have been charged by the city for alcohol-related crimes or students who have previously been through the View Points program. The class focuses on how drinking is affecting the students’ decision-making process, Arndt said.

“Aside from the two programs, the University also offers an individual counseling and are free and confidential to any student,” Arndt said.

It is important for students to get the help they need if they feel there is a problem because the consequences of not doing so go far beyond a hangover the next morning, she said.

“There could be long-term repercussions to your liver and alcohol poisoning can be fatal; you can drink yourself to death,” Arndt said.

Alcohol poisoning is a very serious and potentially dangerous situation, she said.

Some University students are also worried about the drinking habits of the University community.

Senior Jason McGee said he doesn’t believe there is a drinking problem, however, some students do take things too far.

“I don’t think [students drinking] is so bad, but to others, drinking is like a right of passage,” McGee said.

He feels to some people, drinking is a matter of pride and people will sometimes drink themselves sick to try to impress their friends.

McGee said he learned responsible drinking habits from his father, who used to have maybe a few beers when he drank and didn’t over consume.

The classes mandated by the University are not so much meant to punish students for drinking, but to educate them, Arndt said.

“The problem is people are more worried about getting themselves or their friend in trouble than getting the help that they need,” Arndt said.

The other worry is students could potentially develop an alcohol addiction while in college that might be hard to break, she said.

Students who are starting to feel like they might be developing an addiction should look for several important signs, including a higher tolerance to alcohol, withdraw symptoms when going without alcohol for a period of time and when drinking starts to take more importance than other activities.
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source: BG News

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