Alcohol control up to students, too

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    TCU freshmen drink less than they did in 2002. Sort of.Earlier this year, the Alcohol and Drug Education Center surveyed 705 TCU students as part of a national effort to determine, among other things, the drinking habits of U.S. college students.

    And it’s inherently clear: Not only are TCU freshmen drinking less each week (5.3 drinks in 2002 versus 3.6 this year), there’s also been a decrease in both “high-risk” (five or more in a session) and frequent heavy drinking.

    So does this mean the Alcohol and Drug Education Center is doing its job well?

    Not necessarily.

    While researching this topic, I showed my findings to Angela Taylor, the center’s director and the associate dean of student affairs. She politely corrected my observation.

    She explained that she doesn’t focus as much on year-to-year trends of a certain classification as she does on how much of a decrease there is between statistics for freshmen and those for sophomores.

    That is, if second-year students are drinking less than they did during their first year of college, the center has done its job.

    And that’s exactly what has happened. This year’s survey showed a decrease between freshmen and sophomores in average number of drinks a week (3.6 to 3.0), the amount of students who engage in high-risk drinking (38.5 percent to 33.2 percent) and the frequency of heavy drinking (23 percent to 15.1 percent).

    Taylor said TCU isn’t really trying to stop underage drinking. Instead, the goal is education, responsibility and control.

    “Yes, we do want to prevent underage drinking,” she said. “But at the same time, we know some students are going to choose to drink.”

    She said the center is using education and alcohol-free activities to make students think critically about their decisions.

    “Education doesn’t change behavior,” she said. “But behavior can’t change without education.”

    Good job, Dr. Taylor.

    It’s great to see a member of the administration who not only takes an active role in the welfare of students, but also gives them the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them within a controlled environment.

    It would be much easier and cheaper for TCU to turn underage drinkers over to the police. Instead, the administration is taking what could be considered a problem and making it a learning experience. They’re doing students a favor in a very big way.

    Through surveys, counseling sessions and careful treatment, TCU and Taylor’s center have endeavored to show students that they matter as individuals.

    And by co-sponsoring alcohol-free and alcohol-controlled parties and events with groups such as Hyperfrogs, Programming Council and the athletics department, they are trying to enlighten everyone on the dangers of irresponsible drinking.

    Now it’s up to the students.

    I’m not saying everyone should join Hyperfrogs or Programming Council (though they would be thrilled), but we should support those organizations by attending their events.

    Check out this week’s tailgate party and, if you’re of age, bring a couple beers. That way, you can both enjoy a drink and prove to yourself and the world that there’s nothing wrong with drinking responsibly.

    And next month, celebrate National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week from Oct. 24 to 28 by dropping by the Student Center to see what Hyperfrogs is doing. They’ll have surveys and information there all week.

    You could even show support by planning an alcohol-free outing with friends.

    As Taylor told me, “There are a lot of opportunities in the Fort Worth community that students don’t take advantage of.”

    She suggests trips to the Fort Worth’s award-winning zoo, museums, concert halls and theater venues.

    Furthermore, if you run out of Fort Worth to explore, there’s always that city to the east. I hear its symphony orchestra and opera company are amazing.

    As you can see, there are plenty of fun things to do that don’t involve alcohol. But if you just can’t help yourself, please remember to be responsible.

    Possibly the most sobering statistic in TCU’s survey results shows that 28.1 percent of TCU students have driven a car while under the influence, a rate that’s just slightly below the national average.

    Know your limits. And if you’re not able to drive, call a friend, a cab or even the police. For those of you who are underage, understand that drinking isn’t the end-all, be-all of life.

    Safety and responsibility are the two most important parts of any occasion. Don’t sacrifice them just for fun.

    Brian Wooddell is a senior news-editorial journalism major from The Woodlands.

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