The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Breaking News

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
  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    A llama on the lam cruised Main Street Tuesday before it mistook a resident’s fenced backyard for a place to grab a meal and freshen up.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • An oncologist uses scorpion venom to locate cancer cells

    Olson, a pediatric oncologist and research scientist in Seattle, has developed a compound he calls Tumor Paint. When injected into a cancer patient, it seems to light up all the malignant cells so surgeons can easily locate and excise them.

    July 22, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 2.00.42 PM.png VIDEO: Train collides with semi truck carrying lighter fluid

    A truck driver from Washington is fortunate to be alive after driving his semi onto a set of tracks near Somerset, Ky., and being struck by a locomotive, which ignited his load of charcoal lighter fluid.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

  • A quarter of the world's most educated people live in the 100 largest cities

    College graduates are increasingly sorting themselves into high-cost, high-amenity cities such as Washington, New York, Boston and San Francisco, a phenomenon that threatens to segregate us across the country by education.

    July 18, 2014

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

  • Facebook tests button to let people shop from its website

    Members on desktop computers or mobile devices can click a "buy" button to make purchases through advertisements or other posts on the world's largest social network, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Thursday in a blog post.

    July 17, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 17, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • web_starbucks-cof_big_ce.jpg Starbucks sees more Apple-like stores after Colombia debut

    This week Starbucks opened its first location in Colombia — a 2,700-square-foot store with a heated patio, concrete columns, mirrors on the ceiling and walls of colorful plants.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: New story emerges about Texas children locked in hot car

    After footage showed Texas shoppers breaking the windows of a hot car to rescue children trapped inside, additional witnesses have come forward to correct the story behind what has become a viral video.

    July 16, 2014