Dealing with alcoholism, underage drinking on USU’s dry campus

USU police made 58 alcohol-related arrests in 2012, up eight from 2011.

<strong>LOGAN–</strong> It’s no secret USU had problems with on-campus alcohol use in the past. Being a “dry” campus, university policy doesn’t allow any sort of alcoholic beverage on campus at any time.

But that isn’t to say problems don’t occur. In fact, the largest part of liquor law violations in the USU community involve underage students.

“It makes sense, given the demographic,” said Capt. Steven Milne of the USU Police Department. “Kids come to college for four or five years. They start at the age of 18 and three of those years are under the legal drinking age. A lot of the arrests that we make are in on-campus housing locations.”

The number of arrests for liquor law violations has increased slightly from the 50 arrests made in 2011. In 2012, USU police made 58 alcohol-related arrests.

“If you’re underage and we find you, you’ll be cited. That’s a criminal matter,” Milne said. “If you’re of legal age and you’re found to have alcohol on campus, that’s a housing policy violation and more of a civil violation. What we do at that point is seize the alcohol and write a report. A copy of that report goes to housing and they’ll follow up with the individual and take the proper action.”

In cases of underage drinking and on-campus violations, campus police work closely with the Student Health and Wellness Center and the Housing and Residence Life department. Efforts by these USU agencies are meant to benefit students by helping them recognize their behavior affects not only them, but others as well.

“If we talk to these students in question and teach them about the impact on their health, it lets them know that we are concerned for their health and well-being,” said Whitney Milligan, director of Residence Life. “Maybe they keep their roommates awake with loud and disruptive behavior or maybe their friends get worried because they come home drunk and sick. There are people around who are affected and who worry about them.”

Underage students caught with alcohol are automatically referred to Ryan Barfuss, the Prevention Specialist at the wellness center. At that point, they are put through a series of questionnaires to gauge the level of their drinking behaviors. This process helps to identify if the student suffers from any drinking behaviors and tendencies that could be dangerous to them or others.

“We give the student an assessment to figure out if they have serious issues with alcohol use or if it’s just a one-time deal when they got caught,” Barfuss said. “The assessment gives me an idea of what will work best for the student and if they need educational classes or one-on-one counseling. Sometimes the individual might need treatment.”

Often times, depending on the court ruling, students are mandated by either the university or a judge to complete a series of educational classes.

“The students will go through a four-week class consisting of about eight hours of classroom education,” Barfuss said. “But it’s much more than talking about abstinence and saying ‘OK, you’re 18, you can’t drink.’ Instead of that approach, we talk about specific guidelines and skills they can use right now and also when they turn 21 to keep them at low-risk of having health problems. They’ll learn guidelines with drinking. They’ll learn what tolerance level and trigger level are. They learn what a standard drink is. They’ll learn about family history and how that ties in and has an impact. It’s meant to benefit the student rather than chastise them.”

Barfuss said students who take the alcohol education classes also learn how to look for and properly identify symptoms of alcohol poisoning, one of the primary problems affecting underage drinkers.

“I know that underage drinking is taken very seriously in Utah, especially in Logan,” said USU sophomore Manda Perkins. “There were times last year when my roommate would get really sick from drinking and that was always really sketchy. I know when to stop and I know what my limit is but I feel that a lot of the people I partied with didn’t know what their limit was. My roommate would be puking and I’d be stressed that she had alcohol poisoning.”

Census data gathered by USU in 2011 shows 77 percent of students have never used alcohol while 23 percent use it casually or regularly. These numbers reflect an almost complete opposite of national numbers with those who use alcohol polling at more than 70 percent.

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