A Parent’s Guide to the Realities of College Drinking

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Preparing to send a child to college can be a busy, nerve-wracking and emotional time for parents. They’ve invested much time and energy helping their child decide what college will work best academically and socially. They go shopping to buy all the dorm room essentials. But what most parents don’t spend enough time doing is preparing their child to deal with the reality of college drinking.

Saint Joseph’s University sociologist George Dowdall, Ph.D., warns that parents should take the time to look at the alcohol policies and track record of their son or daughter’s school of choice.

“Many colleges collect data about drinking but don’t share those data publicly. This means parents can’t always get a clear or informed picture of the drinking culture,” says Dowdall. “They should ask the college’s vice president for student affairs or the college’s drug and alcohol counselor or administrator for more information.

“Colleges are required by the Clery Act, a federal law, to report campus crimes and drug and alcohol violations,” states Dowdall, the author of College Drinking: Reframing a Social Problem, which presents these data on almost 400 leading colleges.

“Individual colleges are required by another federal law to make public their drug and alcohol policies as well as state and federal laws about substance use,” he adds. “To find an individual college’s policy, visit the college alcohol website set up by the federal government’s alcohol research agency, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/).”

Dowdall stresses that while parents may not want to think about their child engaging in dangerous drinking, it is important that they be realistic.

“The single biggest misconception is that college binge drinking is a harmless rite of passage,” Dowdall explains. “We now know that more than 1,800 college students die each year because of college drinking, so it’s hardly harmless. One study I coauthored found that almost one in 20 college women had nonconsensual sex since the beginning of the school year, as revealed in a large national survey done in the spring semester.  Most of these women were too intoxicated to give consent.”

Dowdall’s website gives links to several websites that provide more information about this and related topics.

Media Contact

Dowdall can be reached at 610-660-1674, gdowdall@sju.edu or by contacting the Office of University Communications at 610-660-1222.

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