Lebanon Reporter

Community News Network

September 6, 2013

Schools try new strategies to battle college drinking

(Continued)

Within 30 minutes of new-student orientation kicking off at Frostburg State University on a Sunday morning in June, the school's top leader had the microphone and was talking about alcohol. He warned the group sitting before him - mostly 18-year-olds with their parents - not to get caught up in the "college effect," the idea presented in movies and on sitcoms that going to college means drinking.

"Beyond the tragedies, what concerns me most is the loss of human potential," said President Jonathan Gibralter, who has led the public university in Western Maryland since 2006. He paused before continuing: "Please think about that this summer. Don't let yourselves get caught up in that world of excessive, high-risk drinking and change the story of what is possible for you at Frostburg State University."

Frostburg used to be a major party school, a reputation coupled with tragedy. A freshman died of alcohol poisoning in 1996 after drinking at an unaffiliated fraternity's party. Seven students were charged. Early in Gibralter's presidency, a student punched a neighbor outside a frat party, nearly killing the man. And over the years, several students have been hospitalized after drinking too much.

Gibralter is convinced that administrators can change the drinking culture - and that they must. "There's this impression that there's nothing you can do about it, and that's just wrong," he said.

Gibralter wants to change the "college effect." In high school, college-bound students are less likely to drink than students who don't plan to continue their education. But during freshman year, students who already drink start to drink more, and students who never drank are likely to start. The drinking rates of those people in college are much higher than those not enrolled.

Gibralter's wife is an alcohol educator, and he has been closely involved with national initiatives, including one recently launched by Dartmouth College that treats college drinking as a public health epidemic.

Gibralter has made reducing high-risk drinking a priority at Frostburg. He's confident the university is making strides, as the percentage of students who binge-drink fell from 54 percent in 2006 to 41 percent last year. With that comes academic achievements: a slowly increasing retention rate, incoming students with higher academic credentials and fewer discipline problems.

Frostburg has worked to create an environment where there are many more things to do than drink. The business school now offers a full slate of Friday classes to discourage Thursday-night drinking. And the university often hosts alcohol-free dance parties that attract hundreds.

The university gave money to the local police force for an extra officer to patrol student neighborhoods on popular party nights. Once a month, Frostburg officials meet with police and representatives from bars and liquor stores. The school will pay for employee training and have students design the bars' menus in exchange for closely following the law, limiting drink specials and promoting healthy drinking habits.

All incoming students are required to pass an online class that teaches that most college students don't drink like characters in the movies. Officials urge parents to talk with their children about drinking before move-in day. That education continues into the fall and is often led by students. Student leaders, including those of fraternities and sororities, are required to receive the same training bartenders receive so they can spot problems at parties.

Frostburg maintains zero tolerance for underage drinking. A first offense results in more alcohol education and a letter to parents, which school officials say has lessened the number of further, more serious offenses.

During orientation, dean of students Jesse Ketterman sternly warned: "We deal with behavior on and off campus. It doesn't matter if you do it on campus or off; we will find out about it."

But, sure enough, during every orientation, at least a few incoming freshmen ask older students to buy them beer or recommend parties.

"The people who ask about alcohol at [orientation] aren't going to be here in a year," said Andy Krehbiel, a rising senior and fraternity member who works in the student center.

The cultural changes have not been easy or popular, Gibralter said. Even so, there are still tragedies, including one student fatally stabbed by another at an off-campus party in 2011.

"We're only as good as our last weekend," Gibralter said. "I never go to bed at night thinking: 'Thank goodness. We finally solved this problem.' "

The video starts with the sound of a marching band and quickly cuts to two supposed University of Michigan undergrads standing on a balcony in Ann Arbor in sunglasses.

"Hey, guys, I'm Liza," says the young woman wearing jeans shorts and a Michigan T-shirt, cropped to show her toned abs. A guy in a black tank top and backward cap next to her introduces himself as Justin.

"Welcome to Welcome Week 2012," she says.

"We're going to show you how we work hard," Justin explains.

 "And play harder," Liza says.

As Wiz Khalifa's song "Work Hard, Play Hard" pulses, the screen fills with photos that look as if they belong in an admissions brochure: the Michigan stadium, the bell tower, ivy-covered buildings and a banner exclaiming, "Welcome to Michigan!!"

The refrain hits - Work! Work! Work! Work! - and the screen turns into a montage of party scenes. A massive house party. A guy wearing a glow necklace brandishing two bottles of hard liquor. Students toasting a shot to the best week of their lives. Women shaking it. Every few seconds, someone shouts an expletive.

As the lyrics become even more unpublishable, the footage gets wilder. Students dancing in a shower of hose water. Guys standing on a balcony and pouring a stream of alcohol into the open mouth of a guy below. Marijuana. Stacks of cash. Kissing. Fighting. Dancing. Chugging. Shotgunning. Funneling. And more dancing.

This is an "I'm Shmacked" video, the creation of two 20-somethings who launched a production company in college. Shmacked, according to Urban Dictionary, means "to become intoxicated to the point of not even being able to stand up, know what's going on, or correctly pronounce any word."

The team travels from school to school, often at the request of students, and records the most outrageous scenes it can find (with this disclaimer: "No alcohol or illegal substance is used during the filming, just prop"). The videos get millions of page views and help to define today's college drinking culture.

It's not the image that most universities want these days, especially as they pump thousands of dollars into alcohol education and branding efforts focused on academics, not keg stands.

"It is important to emphasize that it paints a picture of only a small portion of our student population," said Kelly Cunningham, a University of Michigan spokeswoman. "We have many students at UM who choose not to drink, or when they choose to drink, drink moderately."

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

  • A night in Ferguson

    For the past week in Ferguson, reporters have been using the McDonald's a few blocks from the scene of Michael Brown's shooting as a staging area. Demonstrations have blown up each night nearby.

    August 14, 2014

  • weightloss.jpg The scales of injustice: Weight loss differs between men, women

    You're not imagining it: There really are differences between the way men and women diet, lose weight and respond to exercise.

    August 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Robin_Williams.jpg Williams among many who cracked jokes while fighting depression

    Robin Williams isn't the only comedian who has struggled with a disease suffered by an estimated 350 million people worldwide. Williams, a comedian known for his manic energy, committed suicide Aug. 11 at age 63.

    August 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drug dealers going corporate

    A top federal official on Tuesday said that 105 banks and credit unions are doing business with legal marijuana sellers, suggesting that federal rules giving financial institutions the go-ahead to provide services to dealers are starting to work.

    August 13, 2014

  • unrest.jpg Why the Ferguson police-shooting riots had little to do with Ferguson

    Riots and vandalism broke out in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. An 18-year-old black man named Michael Brown was fatally shot by police there. Brown was unarmed. It's still unclear why tensions boiled over.

    August 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 3.09.32 PM.png VIDEO: Stars react to Robin Williams' death

    Prior to the premiere of “The Expendables 3” in Los Angeles, several movie stars shared their thoughts on the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams.

    August 12, 2014 1 Photo

Featured items
Click below to browse and order photos


Photos from August 2014

Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
US Trying to Verify Video of American's Killing FBI Director Addresses Ferguson Shooting in Utah Raw: Police at Scene of St. Louis Shooting Police: 2 Calif. Boys Planned School Shooting NOLA Police Chief Retires Amid Violent Crimes Lunch Bus Delivers Meals to Kids Out of School Water Bottles Recalled for Safety Researcher Testing On-Field Concussion Scanners Rockets Fired From Gaza, in Breach of Ceasefire Raw: Japanese Military Live Fire Exercise Police, Protesters Clash in Ferguson Independent Autopsy Reveals Michael Brown Wounds Nashville Embraces Motley Crue Obama: 'Time to Listen, Not Just Shout' Lawyer: Gov. Perry Indictment a 'Nasty Attack' Raw: Russian Aid Convoy Crosses Into Ukraine Iowa Man Builds Statue of a Golfer Out of Balls Assange Gets Cryptic About Leaving Embassy in UK Raw: Building Collapse in South Africa, 9 Dead Raw: Pope Francis Meets 'Comfort Women'
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide