Background of Issue and problem
In the past few years, a particular kind of alcohol abuse has come to the frontline among colleges students-binge drinking. Evidently, as McCormick and Kalb (1998) note, college students are currently adopting a drinking culture that involves industrially produced alcohols, rather than keg parties. For a long time, studies on binge drinking remained unattended to until recently when research revealed its worrying characteristics and the risks on individual students as well as the entire collegiate community. By definition, binge drinking is the boozing of five or more drinks, one after the other, once or several times over a period of two weeks for college male students, and four or more drinks one after the other, once or several times over a period of two weeks for college `female students (Wechsler, 1996). For the purpose of relational understanding, one drink is a 12-ounce can of beer, a 12-ounce bottle of wine cooler, a 4-ounce glass of wine, or a shot of booze taken directly or mixed with another drink (Wechsler, 1996).
The war against binge drinking gets tougher considering that the American alcohol industry is valued at $115 billion, with binge drinkers accounting for 76% of beer sales countrywide. Wechsler, Kelley, Weitzman, Giovanni, and Seibring (2000) are among the several researchers that revealed that underage students drinking account for 10% of the intoxicant market, which translates to $10 billion annual revenue. It is evidently hard for the industry stakeholders to genuinely discourage binge drinking in colleges unless they want to cut down on their income. The Guardian’s Sarah Hall (2002) enlightens that Alcohol industry players are presently luring college students into drinking by using what has come to be known as “alcopops’ beverages-sweet and fruity drinks fortified with liquor and fruity gelatin nips containing 12% alcohol. However, with the increasing acknowledgement that binge drinking in colleges contributes a key public health problem, college stakeholder ought to devise means for effective interventions, but some, Wechsler, et al. (2000) report, have already started.
Significance of the problem
In the early 1990s, Harvard School of Public Health’s Henry Wechsler carried on a countrywide research on about 18,000 college students in regard their alcohol consumption, conducts and attitudes. Wechsler’s study presented the first complete view of the college students’ extensive abuse of binge drinking (Wechsler, 1996). Wechsler’s and other reports manifest that abuse of alcohol has since been a problem in college and universities. In 1997, the Krueger episode, in addition to others such as at Louisiana State University among other colleges on the East coast, stimulated national discourses concerning abuse of alcohol in colleges, more precisely binge drinking (McCormick & Kalb, 1998). As of 1997, according to Philpot (1997), about 85% of college students drank alcohol.
To demonstrate the seriousness of binge drinking as a problem, there has been innumerable studies conducted and articles published about the influence of alcohol on college students in the United States, and indeed in the entire world. That is not to mention the several other projects at the lower level that dedicated social scientists, instructors and exclusive students have completed on alcohol didactics and curriculum to help curb the problem. Besides, several specialists and general practitioners have applied their proficiencies examining the physical, psychological and academic consequences of alcohol abuse, but unfortunately, the findings do not at all reveal admirable facts.
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Studies by Wechsler (1996), Philpot (1997), McCormick and Kalb (1998), and Wechsler and Wuethrich (2002) present several significant conclusions about binge drinking. For instance, Wechsler and Wuethrich (2002) found out that 84% of the college students they reviewed drank alcohol throughout the school year with close to half (44%) of those students qualifying to be described as binge drinkers and 19% as regular binge drinkers. What is more, Wechsler and Wuethrich (2002) classified 33% of the reviewed colleges as high-binge drinking colleges.
Here is what this implies: to the extent that a college qualifies for a high-binge drinking status, over 50% of the surveyed students must have indicated that they are binge drinkers, and so they were in that survey. The most impregnable indicator for binge drinking was the involved students’ sleeping in a sorority or chapter house. In that respect, Wechsler and Wuethrich (2002) found out that 80% of sorority female students and 86% of fraternity male students that lived in Greek housing suited into the category of binge drinkers.
Causes of This Problem
Wechsler (1996) identified typical features of binge drinkers as being a male, a fraternity or sorority member, white, younger than the age of 24 years, participating in athletics, and socializing greatly. Logically, fraternity and sorority members are likely to be binge drinkers since fraternity and sorority halls of residence host social activities where alcohol is invariably one of the ingredients. There are many students that drink binge just to get drunk, while others associate themselves in drinking binge because of the status linked to drinking.
On the other hand, other college students drink binge because of the college culture in relation to alcohol consumption, while others get into binge drinking due to the influence of media, peer pressure and academic stress. Another probable psychological reason contributing to bine drinking in colleges is that at their age, most students tend to make maximum use of their new freedom as young adults in campuses. Additionally, students drink binge because of failure of society-in most cases, the society has failed to enlighten young people about the appropriate way to indulge in social drinking. For instance, the only message the American society gives through legislation is that people should not drink unless they are 21 years of age and older. Therefore, when students hit 21, they are already in colleges and they dive into the age-yielding freedom of drinking without fear of being incremented as minor drinkers.
Who is affected by this problem?
Deriving from the characteristics outlined by Wechsler (1996), binge drinkers mostly involve the distinctive demographic variables that break down college alcohol consumers to white females or white males, especially associated with a fraternity or a sorority, and whose history point to binge drinking in senior high. Students who were binge drinkers in senior high are about three times more likely to binge in college. Such students are mostly over the age of 24 years, and as Wechsler (1996) learned, athlete students tend to binge more than others. Other group that tends to binge more that average is of women having interpersonal stress and women who have been diagnosed with depressive disorder or anxiety.
Previous Attempts to Solve the Problem and their Effectiveness
Administrators of various colleges have for many years attempted several solutions to change the attitude of students about alcohol by giving them information and enlightening them about the effects of alcohol abuse. One of the attempts has involved colleges trying flamboyant ad blitzes and tactics to encourage students to cut down the amount of alcohol they consume. In spite of the best exertions college teachers have tried, binging students seem to be reluctant. Consequently, alcohol abuse remains to be a ritual for several students.
Luckily, there is an alcohol prevention program that targets the essence of the drinking problem and the perceptions students possess about binge drinking and other imbibers. The name of that program is “Social Influence Approach”, and it is a campaign meant to change the common views students have concerning alcohol, binge drinking and their peers. Such colleges as the Northern Illinois University were beneficiaries of the program’s funding as early as in 1998, to extend their alcohol abuse prevention exertions and to cut down binge drinking by carrying out social influence causes.
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Scholars on the other hand, including Labrie, Pederson, Lamb, and Bove (2006), have done their best in enlightening people on how to manage the problem of binge drinking in colleges. For instance, Labrie, et al. (2006) write about a nested approach to intervention that is meant to target the high-risk group of people, group interposition comprised of primarily of motivational interviewing targeted at enhancing responsible drinking, reducing high-risk binge drinking and plummeting alcohol-related events in college, especially the ones that encourage negative indulgence. The nested approach also includes colleges and the neighboring communities in reducing the risk. This aspect encourages exchange of ideas among students as well as the faculty. Where such approach was implemented, Labrie, et al. (2006) reported that it afforded positive results by helping decrease problematic binge drinking and violations related to alcohol consumption.
A Way to Solve This Problem
Throughout many campuses worldwide, binge drinking has continued to disrupt the lives of students and compromise their safety. In addition, defeating these social norms that come with binge drinking is an overwhelming task that needs to be undertaken, firstly, by changing the social perceptions associated with binge drinking. Influencing individual student behavior positively has been termed as the key to resolving the binge drinking problem. However, this is only a partial answer, and institutions need to embrace all-inclusive strategies in addressing the supply and demand of alcohol, and reshaping the social-norms that influences the drinking behaviors of students. Other colleges and universities may choose to use social marketing tactic to change perceptions about campus binge drinking including the use of messages to advocate for positive and moderate norms of drinking (Haines, 1996); other colleges and universities may choose to invest in institution-based prevention campaigns such as establishing counseling and treatment facilities for students with alcohol abuse problems; employing substance abuse experts; and establishing units to deal with substance abuse issues. However these tactics may not be completely effective on their own.
Comprehensive strategies which include involving the community to restrict supply of alcohol; instituting cooperative accords with community agencies to curb alcohol abuse; and enforcing the legal age for drinking; providing alcohol-free residences; restricting the use alcohol at home athletic events; would not only help college and university campuses to reduce the rates of binge drinking but also help in completely eradicating binge drinking in these institutions.
One such effective strategy that ought to be followed by institutions to curb this vice is a 12-step program that includes:
- Institutions acknowledging the existence of the binge drinking problem through encouraging students and faculty discussions and assessing the scope of the problem through campus tours to dormitories by administrators.
- Having properly committed leadership in institutions to guide faculty members and the students in order to ensure complete focus to the success of long-term prevention and intervention strategies of binge drinking.
- Institutions should involve all the stakeholders in the awareness and eradication strategy; from health official to the security personnel; Greek leaders; team captains; parents and more so, the students affected by binge drinking.
- Institutions should ensure that their syllabuses are relevant to issues such as alcohol drinking; institutions should hold seminars and invite relevant public speakers in order to educate their students about alcohol, its damages and about the acceptable campus drinking norms.
- Institutions should cooperate with the local authorities and the alcohol and beverage control agencies; and also work together with high schools so to reduce underage drinking of students prior to college or university.
- Institutions should also recognize and respect the rights of students who do not engage in binge drinking activities through funding of alcohol-free recreational and social activities.
- Institutions should also implement codes of conduct so that the students who binge drink can be brought to justice and face the consequences of their disruptive drinking behavior.
- Institutions should also provide alcohol-free residential arrangements for other students who do not binge drink in order to ensure that they do not mix with bad company and become binge drinkers.
- Colleges and universities should also prohibit illegal selling of alcohol especially during sororities, athletic activities and the national organizations should be held accountable for not bringing to justice people who make disruptions when they binge drink.
- Colleges and universities should begin to implement full-time educational classes even on Fridays because many students tend to begin binge drinking at the time they are in campus due to idleness.
- College and universities should encourage binge drinkers to seek help or treatment from the available facilities and also avail referral and treatment facilities for the students with binge drinking problem.
- Colleges and universities should use their admissions offices and the nondrinking students to get the “No binge drinking” message out, especially during freshman admissions and orientation.
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Strengths and Weaknesses of the Proposed Solution
For the twelve-step approach (described above) to be effective in all aspects, college administration ought to carry out all the steps with each importantly dependent on others regardless of the order. In other words, no step should be deemed less or inferior to the other. If an institution chooses to overlook one or more steps, then the process’ effectiveness would not be felt. This is because many steps depend on others for the program to work. However, the success of a community-based approach to dealing with this problem (binge drinking) depends on the cooperation amongst administrators, students, parents, and the police.
Additionally, the overall results of the program will depend on the willingness of students to voice their disapproval of binge drinking as adversely affecting their lives and their community. The campaign disapproval should continue to involve all college students, student organizations, and local business enterprises that are held accountable for their role in providing an environment that regards binge drinking as not only acceptable, but desirable. However, this is not conclusive-since the binge drinking problem is contributed to be many factors, several approaches are necessary for the formulation of a perfect solution.
Benefits, Objections, Rebuttals
How Proposal Will Help Solve the Problem
There exists no perfect remedy that could resolve the entrenched problem of college and universities binge drinking. This proposal intends to give a better way of the society and institution to deal with binge drinking. The proposal intends to achieve this through pointing out the role that every person should play to achieve this goal. In helping college and university campuses throughout the world to deal with this very prevalent problem, this proposal will educate institution administrators about the need to conduct frequent campus assessments in areas where students may tend to use for binge storage and drinking such as in the dormitories and sorority gatherings. This proposal will show institution administration the need to be responsible leaders for other faculty members and students.
This proposal deals with the problem of binge drinking through friendly strategies such as involving the community and the subordinate staff and other approachable methods like educating of students about their health in relation to binge drinking; and engaging students in busy activities especially towards the weekend to avoid idleness. These strategies are very fit for students since the methods are not aggressive and thus, there is less likelihood to encounter rebellion from the students. As proposed, implementing of a code of conduct that will make students face consequences of their binge drinking, students will be more accountable to avoid penalties by institutions administration. In addition, this proposal encourages institutions to establish alcohol-free residential sections for nondrinkers so as to lessen the influence of they may get from the binge drinkers.
Objections That May Raise Against the Solution
The proposed twelve-step program to curb binge drinking in college and university campuses may however not run as smoothly. It requires dedication, commitment, financial and time resources. For instance, not all school administrators would be willing to invest extra time to conduct assessments in the dormitories where students may be storing alcohol; schools may not have the extra financing for additional manpower for the counseling and health experts and financing for overtime teaching to avoid students’ idleness. Students always tend to rebel especially when harsh measures are put for them. The class lessons that would be tabled towards the weekend may not get students as many will view that as a way of the school trying to punish them and others may even consider beginning their weekend activities more important than attending the lessons.
Counter-Objections to Rebut the Challenges to Their Solution
Nothing good comes easily, thus even with the objections that are expected to be faced, and the stakeholders should be on guard and ready to deal with them in every possible way. For instance, the school heads should consider educating and encouraging teachers to commit themselves and be ready for all the finances, time and other sacrifices that may be involved for the worthy cause. The heads of schools may also request for government funding in order to manage paying for the extra costs in hiring and maintaining of personnel. In order to deal with any students’ rebellion, school administration should show the seriousness of the extra class lessons. This can be achieved through making the weekend classes the time for Assessment Tests that make up a percentage of the final semester results. This will make students not only to attend the classes but also concentrate in order to perform well.
Colleges and universities continue to make focus their efforts towards responding to heavy alcohol use by their students through the use of various prevention measures. Due to the limited human and financial resources for these institutions to establish initiatives that can help in preventing alcohol consumption; steering of social-norms campaigns can reduce the effect. Social-norms campaigns can also be the initiative to the implementation of other alcohol restricting efforts on campuses. However, there exists no scientifically rigorous evidence from research and evaluations that supports the efficiency of student-oriented tactics compared to alcohol education and social norms marketing campaigns.
There exists evidence that restricting alcohol access in education institutions in order to promote abstinence and consequently reduce heavy drinking and associated effects works well. The apparent administrative, financial, and political costs incurred in the efforts of limiting alcohol access are nevertheless too high, thus, these institutions find themselves limited to the more pleasant and affordable alcohol education and social-norms approaches. In line with this, governments and other anti-alcohol organizations should give the necessary funding to institutions so as to support the fight against binge consumption.