Life As We Know It: May 19, 2014

      Living in a college town, I see the very best and occasionally the worst of student behavior. I watch in admiration as they dance for 32 hours straight to raise money for charity. I cheer them on as they undertake an annual blood drive. I marvel at the achievement of the most motivated among them in the classroom and the laboratory.
      But I shudder when I drive by another rented house where a drinking party has spilled on to the lawn and young adults freed from parental influence demonstrate just how little regard they have for the responsibilities that come with independence.
      So it’s hardly surprising that student drinking is a source of tension on most campuses in communities where “town and gown” issues are never far away.
      I say, it’s time to stop glorifying drunken behavior.
      It’s time to stop printing T-shirts proudly listing the watering holes visited on escapades almost poetically described as “pub crawls.”
      It’s time to understand that binge drinking can be fatal.
      It’s time for red watchband.org.
      The Red Watch Band program was launched in 2008 at Stony Brook State University of New York on Long Island after a faculty member’s son, a young freshman at Northwestern University, died of acute alcohol poisoning.
      Working with health care professionals, Stony Brook students and officials at the university’s Center for Prevention and Outreach developed techniques for dealing with alcohol emergencies.
      They learned, and then taught others, the swift action that must be taken to rescue a passed-out student from a drinking death. Because every second counts, each student completing the course receives a red watch, identifying him or her as a potential rescuer.
      It all sounds so simple, and so right. Collegiate binge drinking kills and injures in scary numbers. According to the Annual Review of Public Health, more than 1,700 college students 18 to 24 die each year of alcohol-related causes, and another 30,000 require medical treatment after toxic drinking.
      Perhaps the most chilling number of all: the prevalence of binge drinking among all Americans 18 to 24 is more than 27 percent, according to a morbidity and mortality report not long ago. That’s more than one in four. Peer pressure can sometimes be overwhelming. If I still had a kid in college, I’d be very afraid.
      Despite the statistics, there no doubt are those who believe this is just so much social feel-good stuff, the kind of thing they think liberals do to feel better about themselves. But if just one son or daughter of a total stranger is spared, I don’t care what the critics think. It sounds to me like neither does Stony Brook.

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