Two out of five college students in America are binge drinkers. That's the report from a study of more than 15,000 students by the Harvard School of Public Health, which found similar numbers in 1997 and 1993.
But this year's study showed an increase in the frequency of binge drinking, prompting Harvard analysts to call it "the most serious problem affecting social life, health and education on college campuses today."
ELCA colleges and universities are not immune to the problem. "Binge drinking has been increasing for us," said Debbie E. Heida, dean of students and vice president of student development for Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio.
Wittenberg alcohol awareness programs strive to combat the problem throughout the school year. Letters go to students explaining how to have a responsible party. The college provides a "safe spring break" program. Students also are urged to sign pledges not to drink and drive.
"I think students feel free to do whatever they want, whenever they want," Heida said. "Also, it's a reflection of broader society, which gives mixed messages about alcohol."
But there is room for optimism.
"The interesting thing about this year's study is that it also shows what we've observed — an increase in abstaining," Heida said. "But there are always new students. So we constantly have students who need education."
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