WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said Wednesday episodic binge drinking by college students has become a “serious public health issue” that requires the attention not just of students, parents and college administrators, but of entire communities.
“Our message is a simple and serious one: alcohol abuse on college campuses has reached a point where it is far more destructive than most people realize and today threatens too many of our youth,” Lieberman said at a hearing on the subject. “College students need to know that if they party to excess, they could die. And college administrators need to know that intervention is the only way to get this out-of-control behavior under control.”
Lieberman’s interest in the issue arose from circumstances within his home state of Connecticut where at least six college students have died within the past 12 months as a result of alcohol- related incidents. Four were students at Quinnipiac College, one was a student at the University of Hartford, and one was a student at the University of Connecticut. “Connecticut, sadly, is just a part of a nationwide trend among college students to get as drunk as possible as quickly as possible, often with devastating effects.”
A study by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a division of the National Institutes of Health, found in a recent study that alcohol leads to 1,400 student deaths each year, 70,000 date rapes and assaults, and 500,000 injuries. The Surgeon General also has identified binge drinking among college students as a major public health problem. According to one study, about 40 percent of students binge drink. Lieberman cited the University of Connecticut and the California State University system as two examples of school systems intervening to solve the problem but he said too many college administrators are denying a problem even exists.
“More colleges and universities should be implementing tougher alcohol policies and working with communities and local law enforcement to enforce minimum drinking age laws, to increase enforcement at campus events where excessive drinking is promoted, and to inform incoming students and their parents about alcohol policies and penalties,” Lieberman said. “We must redouble our efforts to bring college alcohol consumption under control, to provide students with the tools to make more informed decisions, and to save the lives of as many students as we possibly can.”