College booze arrests go up

Michael Lewis

For some, student life and alcohol can seem to go hand-in-hand.

However, when the enjoyment factor peaks, consequences – such as getting arrested – can rear their ugly heads.

Statistics released by the U.S. Department of Education in 2005 account for a 1.1 percent increase in alcohol arrests at colleges and universities across the nation, rising for the 12th consecutive year from 30,357 liquor-law violations to 30,677.

These figures are based on data reported by 6,412 two-year and four-year colleges, both nonprofit and for-profit, that are eligible for financial aid.

In contrast, the number of alcohol-related arrests at Kent State slightly declined from 96 during the 2003-2004 school year to 92 arrests in 2004-2005, according to information released by the Kent State Police Department.

Stephanie Beougher, a spokeswoman for the Drug-Free Action Alliance, said nearly 1,700 students die nationwide every year as a result of alcohol consumption. According to the organization’s Web site, 22.8 percent of 12- to 20-year-olds participated in binge drinking at least once in the last month.

“Alcohol is a very powerful drug,” Beougher said. “When students are under the influence of alcohol, they are more likely to experience physical violence and to have unwanted sexual contact.”

The Drug-Free Action Alliance is a statewide initiating agency that encourages colleges and universities to address alcohol-related issues and to form campus coalitions. Kent State is one of 42 colleges and universities that have jumped onboard the Drug-Free Action Alliance.

In doing so, Kent State formed its own coalition, the University Advisory Committee on Alcohol Issues, to combat high-risk drinking. The coalition is composed of students, staff, faculty and community members who are concerned about alcohol-related harm.

Scott Dotterer, Office of Student Health Promotion coordinator, serves on the UACAI. His job includes alcohol policy development and implementation of a campus-wide information campaign – the same campaign responsible for posting the “Thinking about Drinking” posters around campus.

“Certainly, alcohol-use has been a topic of concern,” Dotterer said. “We’ve tried to be proactive.”

Once communities heard about alcohol-related tragedies involving students, public awareness and support rose, said Alice Ickes, Kent State crime prevention officer and UACAI member.

“It’s a sense of entitlement,” Ickes said. “Students don’t think it’s wrong, and they don’t want to turn their friends in, but actually they are in danger of dying. In spite of all the information in high-risk and underage drinking, we still don’t see much of a change in behavior.”

Contact safety reporter Michael Lewis at [email protected].