DEPAUWTY’S OVER; binge drinking culture continues to increase

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An in front of Sigma Chi at DePauw University
An ambulance arrives at Xi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity on Saturday night, the first night First-Years were allowed on Greek property NATALIE BRUNINI THE DEPAUW

Last weekend, sophomore Lauren White witnessed an incident that has been seen too often on DePauw University’s campus this year: a student being transported to the hospital for overconsumption of alcohol.

“Four guys carried this kid downstairs limb by limb and they sat him down, and he could barely sit in the chair, and we tried to wake him up, but he was unconscious,” White said.

According to an email sent to the campus community by Alan Hill, vice president of student academic life, “data is showing that there has been improvement among college students nationally with a decline in binge drinking rates over recent years, that is not the case at DePauw.”

While 21 students were hospitalized for alcohol consumption in the fall semester of last year, 20 students have already been hospitalized in the first half of the fall semester this year.

Almost 700 students participated in 360Proof screening last month. Respondents averaged a total of five drinks per occasion, which is considered binge drinking. More than one-third of respondents reported consuming over six drinks per occasion. 360Proof  is a nationally used program for NCAA division three colleges and universities that evaluate drug and alcohol use. It screens DePauw in the form of online questions that allows the University to gauge the drinking culture on campus.

The results of the screening and the hospitalizations the weekend of Oct.7 and 8 are making some members of the DePauw community concerned about binge drinking becoming a norm at DePauw. “This is a huge issue on our campus and actually a really big potential risk,” Julia Sutherlin, assistant dean of campus life and director of alcohol initiatives, said.

Although hospitalizations have become more typical on campus, some students neglect to think about the consequences of receiving formal warnings, probations, suspensions or expulsions due to alcohol consumption. According to the Student Handbook Formal Warning section under Sanctions for Individuals, “If found responsible for violating any additional University policies or failure to comply with other requirements stipulated as part of the formal warning, the student may be moved to Probation status.” Formal warnings are kept track of by DePauw but are not released to other institutions or programs.

Students can also receive probation, suspension or expulsion sanctions for serious alcohol violations. Unlike formal warnings, these sanctions will be released to post-graduation programs, which could hurt a student's chances of acceptance to a particular program.

Sutherlin said students who have a one-time violation on their record and show remorse and reflect on the violation and have not repeated that behavior, are usually not reprimanded for that action.

“What I have seen, maybe not detrimental to the point where they did not get in, but they certainly had more hoops to jump through was when they had multiple violations when they did not accurately report their conduct history and those just become more challenges,” Sutherlin said.

Sutherlin added that students do not want to increase the number of things they have in their “minus” column, meaning multiple violations could put a student at risk of being rejected from a program or school, especially those in the top-tier category.

Students must take initiative to solve the problem, she added. “On the individual student level, if everyone just drank a little bit less, we would be able to fix this alcohol problem much more quickly,” Sutherlin said.

Some students, such as senior Samantha Bader, believe there is more the administration can do to fix this problem. “They can educate students about drinking too much because through education people understand the consequences of their actions,” Bader said. “Not simply by prohibiting alcohol, for example, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, or in this case drink less. Two, they can help build a culture of care. It starts at the individual level but starts with individuals taking a stance against binge drinking. It is good to have fun and be smart about your drinking choices.”