University of Arizona fraternity's ouster should sound an alarm for parents

Our view: Talking to students about alcohol can prevent abusive drinking
2013-04-10T00:00:00Z University of Arizona fraternity's ouster should sound an alarm for parents Arizona Daily Star
April 10, 2013 12:00 am

The University of Arizona continues to take a hard line with campus fraternities that refuse to stop harsh hazing and heavy boozing. It just added a fourth Greek chapter to the number of fraternities closed in the last 15 months.

Putting a stop to the frat-house practices that are barbaric at best and potentially lethal at the worst is the right thing to do.

The local chapter of Pi Kappa Phi is the latest to lose its campus affiliation after investigations by the UA and national fraternity representatives, according to reporting by the Star's Carol Ann Alaimo. It was suspended for three years.

The fraternity had racked up 14 violations since 2010. Those included "underage booze bashes that ended with students being hospitalized for excessive alcohol consumption," according to Alaimo's story Monday.

In that time period, the fraternity received fines at least three times after warnings and counseling.

That's a lot of trouble and a lot of chances.

Hazing, underage drinking and extreme alcohol abuse are facts of life on college campuses. A story in the New York Times last April cited a 2008 University of Maine study on hazing that "concluded that 55 percent of students who join fraternities, sororities, sports teams or other student groups experience it."

Hank Nuwer, a professor at Franklin College in Indiana who has written four books on hazing, has documented 104 deaths involving hazing since 1970, according to the Times story.

Even more troubling are statistics on college-student deaths and assaults related directly to drinking.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, reports that each year, consequences of drinking by college students between the ages of 18 and 24 include:

• 1,825 deaths from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.

• 690,000 assaults by another student who has been drinking.

• 97,000 sexual assaults or date rapes.

This is not just a problem of reining in rowdy frat boys. It's a serious student-safety issue and excessive drinking isn't confined to Greek life.

Alcohol use is discussed as part of the UA's student orientation and "hazing and alcohol education is a part of the recruitment process" for the 46 fraternities and sororities on campus, says Chrissy Lieberman, associate dean of students.

While students are at orientation, their parents are presented with alcohol and hazing information, too. The school knows how connected young adults are to their parents and they are encouraged to inform the school of any signs of trouble, Lieberman adds.

The UA's vigilance is essential and the school is wise to play to the parent-student bond. Research supports the idea that talking can be an effective tool in curbing excessive drinking.

Time magazine reported last month on research by Rob Turrisi of Penn State University and his colleagues. The team "surveyed 1,900 students and their parents just before the teens started college and again during the fall of their freshman and sophomore years," Time reported.

The results reinforce a message parents have heard before and not just about college students and not just about alcohol abuse.

The Penn State group found "the discussions about alcohol seemed to have some effect in curbing drinking habits, especially among students that started college as heavy drinkers.

"But timing was everything. If their parents talked to them about things like why people drink and substitutes for drinking before they left for school, they were 20 times more likely to transition to a more healthy drinking pattern - including nondrinking - than they were to stay heavy drinkers 15 months later."

That's a simple but powerful message and good reason for universities and families to keep talking to the young adults on their watch.

Arizona Daily Star

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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