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Sept. 18, 2014 Volume 36, No. 4

Goals established to lower drinking among Columbia college students

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Sixty-eight percent of MU's Greek Life students binge drink (consuming five or more drinks within two hours for men and four for women), a dangerous practice that on rare occasions causes alcohol poisoning. iStock photo

Summit participants discussed Thursday-night drinking among students

At the Alcohol Summit Sept. 12, Kim Dude, speaking to about 100 Columbia and higher education leaders, challenged instructors to take action. “Faculty have a tremendous amount of power to lower the drinking” of university students, said Dude, director of MU’s Wellness Resource Center.

The context was student drinking Thursday night. A solution might be for faculty to increase the number of Friday-morning classes.

Scheduling more Friday classes was just one topic broached at the Alcohol Summit, held at Hampton Inn and Suites in Columbia. Besides MU faculty and administrators, among those in attendance were leaders of Stephens College and Columbia College, local bar owners and landlords, law enforcement, and heads of community organizations.

The purpose of the first Alcohol Summit April 17, 2014, was to develop a strategic plan to reduce high-risk drinking among college students. The Sept. 12 summit was spent reviewing the strategic plan to curb high-risk student drinking. The five-year plan includes a timeline and priorities.

Student Drinking

Of the more than 34,000 students enrolled during 2013 at the University of Missouri, 86 percent drank alcohol regularly, according to the Missouri College Health Behavior Survey. The study sampled 3,341 MU undergraduates.

Even so, almost no students ran afoul with campus administrators or were arrested by police for public intoxication. Only 1 percent was arrested for DUI.

But concerns remain. There are 54 bars and clubs within walking distance of MU, Stephens College and Columbia College, and they generally are packed Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with students, some of whom are underage.

Thirty-eight percent of underage students drink to get drunk, according to the 2013 survey. Sixty-eight percent of Greek Life students binge drink (consuming five or more drinks within two hours for men and four for women), a dangerous practice that on rare occasions causes alcohol poisoning.

Three goals were discussed at the summit:

• Decrease underage drinking in Columbia

 Among the topics: increasing police presence, more DUI checkpoints, improve the consistency of enforcement of alcohol laws in residence halls

• Decrease high-risk drinking

Topics: Recommend to City Council that drink specials be regulated, restrict number of downtown bars; hold more Friday classes, provide better nighttime bus transportation downtown, have landlords impose three-strikes-and-out policy on irresponsible student renters

• Provide more services for students in alcohol recovery

Topics: Provide a location to display resources at MU, Columbia College and Stephens College for students in recovery, train staff and faculty to better understand addiction and how they can support students in recovery

More Friday Classes

Summit participants hope to achieve a 5 percent reduction in underage drinking, a 3 percent decrease in high-risk drinking, and a 10 percent increase in students from MU, Columbia College and Stephens College taking part in recovery.

Before summit attendees broke into four groups — each assigned a topic of enforcement, education, policy or communication — the most talked about topic was Thursday-night drinking.

A 2007 study by the MU site of the Midwest Alcoholism Research Center in the Department of Psychological Sciences found that students with no Friday-morning classes drank twice as much (2.5 drinks) Thursday night than those who had morning classes. “The prospect of having to attend class the next morning has sufficient inhibitory influence to suppress drinking on Thursday,” the report said. “That is, attendance at an early-morning class is incompatible with a hangover or other adverse consequences of a night of drinking.”

Kenneth J. Sher, an MU professor of psychology who specializes in examining the effects of alcohol on behavior and was a co-author of the 2007 study, told Mizzou Weekly in June that in recent years higher education institutions such as Harvard University, the University of Georgia and the University of Iowa have implemented more Friday early-morning classes to curb Thursday alcohol consumption.

Joan Masters, senior coordinator of the wellness center’s Partners in Prevention, a substance abuse consortium, asked at the summit if students have too much flexibility creating course schedules. For example, many students schedule no classes before 11 a.m. and no Friday classes, perhaps to nurse hangovers.

On Sept. 16, after hearing a report on the Alcohol Summit, Faculty Council Chair Craig Roberts said that council members need to address the issue of Friday morning classes.

The next summit will be in April 2015, though subcommittees plan to meet in the interim.