Are America's College Students Majoring in Booze?
Goode, Stephen, Insight on the News
The age-old activity of drinking, once considered a rite of passage on college campuses, has fallen under increased scrutiny. Some researchers report that alcohol consumption has reached "epidemic" proportions and are calling for wide-ranging changes on campus. More moderate voices hope to teach students to drink responsibly.
To most Americans, alcohol consumption by college students is as natural and expected as graduating in June. But according to the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, or CASA, at New York's Columbia University, student drinking is becoming a major problem that educators ignore at their peril.
A May report, Rethinking Rites of Passage: Substance Abuse on America's Campuses, uses terms such as "epidemic" and "crisis" to describe alcohol use - and abuse - at colleges and universities. The situation is so serious, the report concludes, that if circumstances don't change, a significant segment of the current generation of American college students will be lost to alcoholism and its aftereffects: wrecked careers, disastrous personal relationships and early death.
But not everyone is buying these claims or the conclusions. Ruth Engs, a professor of applied health science at Indiana University and longtime alcohol researcher, is one such naysayer. "There is no epidemic, there is no crisis," she says. "Students in Western culture have been drinking since the 12th century and will continue to do so.
Engs levels her greatest skepticism at the report's all-encompassing recommendations for change, including the transformation of what Jeffrey Merrill, CASA|s vice president for policy and research, calls "the culture on campus."
The old campus culture glorified drinking as macho, natural and glamorous, explains Merrill. The new culture must regard drinking - especially heavy drinking - as "aberrant behavior" and "totally unacceptable."
To that end, the CASA report recommends that every campus undertake efforts to reeducate and retrain the young with the aim of discrediting the act of drinking as a "rite of passage" for …
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Publication information: Article title: Are America's College Students Majoring in Booze?. Contributors: Goode, Stephen - Author. Magazine title: Insight on the News. Volume: 10. Issue: 32 Publication date: August 8, 1994. Page number: 15+. © 1999 News World Communications, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1994 Gale Group.
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