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List for tragic ends before fall 2007

Listing for Fall 2007 semester

Recent Alcohol-Related Student Deaths

Any that are avoidable is definitely one too many.

If there is any question that the prevailing drinking culture on college campuses is a problem, the names on this sad listing should dispel all doubts. As well as the names, the circumstances behind the deaths, the pain inflicted on the victims' families tell a compelling statement that the current campus drinking practices are not acceptable and the attention  paid to policies regulating campus drinking too often are not working.  This news story about the atmosphere during the first week of the semester at the University of Delaware is likely duplicated at too many countries across the nation.  Parents need to prepare their children on how to avoid these excess, and the consequences of participating,  prior to leaving them on campus.

There are four distinct causes of deaths present.  A significant  number of deaths were from acute alcohol poisonings, generally when the blood/alcohol level was .30 or higher.  What isn't reflected in these listings, is the extent of medical referrals necessary for alcohol poisonings where the student fortunately survived.  (In reference to the  Towson death, the press reported "29 students were transported to the hospital for alcohol-related incidents in 2006. The same number were transported in 2005, and 28 were transported in 2004.")  Also unknown, is the long-term harm on cognitive ability that those who need medical attention suffer, as well as the likely numerous other binge drinking escapades where recovery entails only sleeping it off.

The other causes of death that are recurring are 1) the mixing of alcohol with either legal or illegal drugs, 2) the consequence of reckless behavior by an intoxicated individual, and  3) unfortunate individuals who were not engaged in the excesses but fall victim to the reckless activities of an intoxicated student.

Whatever the cause, the risk to virtually every college student is significant, especially where reasonable efforts are not made to effectively enforce campus alcohol policies.  Sending a child to college is similar to Russian Roulette, a parent does not know who will not make the return trip home.

What is the solution:

There seems to be be two possible directions:

  • Hold colleges accountable to take all reasonable steps to maximize the opportunities for an alcohol-free campus environment.  There is currently an effectively written federal law which has this objective, or

  • Concede to the young drinkers and the alcohol industry and lower the minimum drinking age to eighteen.  This is a proposal made by John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College (ChooseResposibility.org).  Then parents and students will be made aware that the campuses are likely places of uncontrolled drinking and not approach those years with a false sense of security that colleges and universities are responsibly limiting those practices (see McCardell's New York Times op-ed.)

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In loving Memory of Kristine Guest