Does Towson U Have an Alcohol Problem?

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A professor at Wesleyan estimates that fully half of college students are “situational alcoholics.” What’s to be done?

College students drink. They always have, they always will. But sometimes that drinking gets out of hand — as seems to be the case at Towson University these days.

Last weekend’s post-homecoming festivities escalated into a riot, complete with police dogs, pepper spray, and a shooting. But while the school is attempting to paint the out-of-control party as an isolated incident spurred by non-students, the school has been seeing a rise in alcohol-related incidents overall.

Last year, the Towson Towerlight noted that alcohol-related transports — when Emergency Medical Technicians come to deal with a students who are so drunk that they’re at medical risk — were up a whopping 121 percent over 2010. And this year, they’re even higher:  as of September 19, 18 students from the school’s residence halls had been taken to the hospital. That’s nearly one a day for the first few weeks of classes; for a school with approximately 15,000 undergraduates, that’s worrisome.

The school is taking the issue seriously, of course — they already run educational programs about the dangers of alcohol, and program alternative events on the weekend to encourage students to do something other than get plastered. After the uptick in alcohol-related transports, the school’s Department of Housing and Residence Life sent peer educators to each of the school’s dorms to address the issue.

But the students keep drinking, and keep ending up at the hospital. “I honestly don’t think it has anything to do with what the school is doing,” freshman Lauren Hamami told the Towson Towerlight. “It’s not the school’s problem that the students get transported. They don’t expect you to not drink they just expect you to be reasonable about it.”

This is, of course, a problem at many other schools. In an editorial in the Chronicle of Education last year, professor Claire Potter theorized that “about half [of] students are situational alcoholics,” and notes that, although most will grow out of the habit in their post-college years, “this period of alcoholism still has a dramatic impact on their ability to learn, remain organized, be healthy and mature as intellectuals and workers.” Potter and others who note that college students are much, much more likely to binge-drink than their same-age peers who aren’t in school point out that the protected atmosphere of college can lead students to feel as though there are no negative consequences for their bad behaviors.  The problem is widespread throughout the country, from Boston to Fresno.

“Students drink for a reason,” Potter points out, “one of which is that even (especially?) the most successful believe that disaster is right around the corner.  Up to the moment they are admitted to college, it’s true. If they are taking out massive loans to pay for college, it’s still true.” She’s got some other smart suggestions, all of which tackle the problem at its roots — harder work than putting up more “don’t binge drink!” posters around campus, but way more necessary. How do you think Towson should address its drinking problem?

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  1. another big issue is the students partying and drinking in the residential neighbourhoods where they live. there are houses on a lot of the streets off york road between towson u and loyola u that have four to six students living there and are totally disruptive. and are horribly rude to the neighbours who complain.

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