High risk drinking culture revealed by first-year student hospitalization numbers

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The number of students who have been taken to the hospital since the start of the school year is three times the number of the last two academic years within the same time frame. 

Since before the beginning of the academic school year, 10 people have been sent to the hospital from DePauw University due to intoxication, according to Julia Sutherlin, assistant dean of campus life and director of alcohol initiatives.

    The average Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of the students sent to the hospital is a .31. Students are sent to the hospital if they have a BAC of .25 or above. A BAC of .25 or higher means .25 percent of a person’s blood stream is composed of alcohol.

    A student, who asked to remain anonymous, was taken to the hospital with a .314 BAC but was functioning normally. “There definitely is a problem and I think a lot of it has to do with hard alcohol,” said the anonymous student. “People will just take it down and they don’t feel anything and they take more of it down and they don’t really know their limits.”

    According to Sutherlin, the group of students who have been hospitalized this year is made up of both DePauw first-years and upperclassmen, as well as visitors. There have been more male students than female students hospitalized thus far.

    In regards to where students are drinking, there have been hospitalizations from people drinking at bars, residence halls, and Greek chapters, Sutherlin said.

    Public Safety responds to welfare checks where officers facilitate an ambulance and it is decided whether a student needs to be taken to the hospital or not. “In those situations, the person who calls is completely covered by the Indiana Lifeline law as well as the University’s safe community initiative,” Angie Nally, director of Public Safety, said.

    The Indiana Lifeline law grants immunity to someone who has committed an alcohol crime, such as public intoxication or minor in possession, if they have called authorities in order to aid someone who may be in danger due to intoxication, according to the attorney general website.

    According to DePauw’s student handbook, the safe community initiative states, “In order to maintain the emphasis on student safety, a student or organization who actively intervenes by calling for help for a peer and staying with that person until help arrives will not be held accountable through the Community Standards process for University policy violations connected to that specific situation.”

    All of the hospitalizations that have taken place this year have been called in by Public Safety staff and Campus Living and Community Development (CLCD) staff, including Resident Assistants (RAs). None of the calls for help were made by bystanders. “We’ve got to have students engaged with this, we’re not there on Fridays and Saturdays… because quite honestly these are happening every night of the week,” Sutherlin said.

    DePauw has been taking initiatives in order to control the problem of overusing alcohol on campus. 360 Proof is an online personal screening which gives feedback and helps students understand their drinking habits while educating students on safe alcohol levels and what constitutes a drink. Students can access 360 Proof at bit.ly/DePauw360Proof.

    Further, DePauw will continue to enforce citations as well as breathalyzer tests. Tailgating changes regarding the use of kegs, peer to peer accountability and reducing the amount of alcohol available will be enforced.

    Brief screenings and interventions in the healthcare setting will also help DePauw gauge the severity of drinking problems on campus. The TIPS program also educates students on safe drinking as well as general life skills. Students can sign up to participate in the TIPS program at bit.ly/DePauwTIPS.

    The administration hopes that these programs will lead to greater student safety. Sutherlin said, “We just don’t want a death from alcohol on our campus no matter who it is.”