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No increase in problems with alcohol at UA

By Irene Hsiao
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 9, 1998
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Leigh-Anne Brown
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Communication freshman Dana Brown (left) and undeclared freshman Breana Cabral pick out alcoholic beverages at a local convenience store. Alcohol use among UA students exists but studies show it is not a major problem.

The myth is that college students get rip roaring drunk all the time.

However, the notion that alcohol and drugs are a big part of university students' passage to adulthood simply isn't true, according to UA Campus Health statistics.

Jim Van Arsdel, the University of Arizona's Residence Life and University Housing director, said college freshman tend to arrive expecting booze.

"People getting here having had experience with alcohol probably expect more, especially with their new freedom," Van Arsdel said. "Some of these students believe that nothing bad will befall them."

However, there are no statistics indicating that freshmen habitually drink more than upperclassmen, or that more students are getting in trouble with alcohol than in the past.

According to the University of Arizona Police Department, there were 223 alcohol arrests in 1996 and 225 arrests in 1997.

Health educator Lee-Ann Hamilton of Campus Health said they have actually seen a decrease from 1995 to 1998, a 29 percent reduction in binge drinking.

"We're bucking the national trend, and we're happy about that," Hamilton said.

Campus Health has put up posters around campus advertising that 69 percent of students consumed four or fewer drinks last time they partied.

Hamilton said the figure proves that students aren't harming themselves, and that only a small amount are drinking dangerously.

Of course, there will always be students who drink more than they can handle.

The students who do get in trouble have to pay.

Veda Hunn, the assistant of Dean of Students, said that those who are referred to them for misconduct must serve community service, are placed probation and must participate in the Student Health Alcohol Drug Education (SHADE) program.

The SHADE program is meant to help these students.

"We don't try to change people's values, we educate people about their own tolerance," said Dan Reilly, another health educator. "We give people warning that some people can't drink at all."

The dean's office deals with between 200 and 300 students each month in connection with code of conduct violations. These include drugs and alcohol.

The alcohol related incidents are mostly freshman male students.

"It's pretty much always been like this at UA," said Hunn.

A possible reason may be of the newfound freedom students have.

"Even when they drank in high school they had to worry about what shape they were in when they came home, there aren't those restrictions in college," Reilly said.

There is also peer pressure and the perception of partying more. Yet, students for the most part are able to deal with drugs and alcohol.

"Most students on campus who choose to do drugs and alcohol do it in moderation and don't suffer negative consequences," said Dan Reilly.

However, Health Promotion and Prevention Services which is part of Campus Health found that 30 percent of the 800 students surveyed did not drink in the last 30 days. This survey was conducted during April of last year in resident halls and Greek housing. Most of these students were under-classmen.

"Dirtbag's and Sixth Street (bars) may be crowded on weekends, but it was nowhere near the majority of the school," Reilly said.

Van Arsdel added that school has been in session for a month and a half and by this time, students should be aware if drinking is a problem if it gets in the way of their education.

"Students reap the cost of stress level at mid-terms," Van Arsdel said.

At the same time, parents must understand that it will take new students a month or two to adjust to freedom and personal responsibility, he added.

"Knowing this kind of behavior goes on - this is experimental behavior - yet we want students to be safe," Van Arsdel said.

At the same time, Reilly said when parents come for Parents Weekend that they shouldn't be too extreme in either direction.

"What is normal shouldn't be abstinence or that's they way kids are," Reilly said.

Irene Hsiao can be reached via e-mail at Irene.Hsiao@wildcat.arizona.edu.