New approach to prevent alcohol tragedies

Bethany Dionne

Don’t ever leave them alone. Don’t put them in the shower. Don’t give them any kind of food or drinks. Don’t laugh at, make fun of or provoke them. Don’t allow them to exercise or sleep and lastly, don’t allow them to drive or operate any form of machinery or vehicle.

These are just some of the protocols students are told to follow when a friend is intoxicated.

When a person has alcohol poisoning, the entire body starts to shut down in order to deal with the lack of oxygen, causing irregular breathing and an increased heart rate. Most people don’t realize that binge drinking is only considered drinking 4 to 5 drinks in one evening in about 4 hours.*

Every year, there are more and more accidents and deaths due to drinking. In the year 2000, there were 6,131 deaths due to drinking and driving in youth between the ages of 15 and 20 and 2,339 deaths due to irresponsible consumption of alcohol.*

Unfortunately, Quinnipiac University has not been spared from dealing with the horrors and fatalities due to alcohol.

During the 2001-2002 school year, three lives were lost because of accidents with alcohol and the school is trying to share knowledge of the dangers of underage drinking with students so they are aware and prepared in case of emergencies.

Most people agree that underage drinking is a national problem.

“I don’t think drinking is excessive at Quinnipiac. College students everywhere are drinking and we are not out of the ordinary,” said freshman Kristen Mitaritonna.

Every college or university has to deal with alcohol problems and sometimes the shocking realities of death. The only way to help is to educate students. Many agree that college students are old enough to make their own choices and need to be able to determine which ones are bad.

The staff at Quinnipiac realizes that many college students will choose to drink and they cannot be stopped. If students are educated and aware of the dangers, however, the hope is that they will make positive choices and be able to help friends do the right thing as well.

“We really do care and we are going to do all that we can with our resources to help students,” says Monique Drucker, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs.

She, along with the help of other students and staff members, promotes lectures and events in order to educate students about responsible drinking and warning them of the many dangers. Such events include the DUI Simulator that was on the quad last fall and speakers such as Danny Duval and Mark Sterner.

The Quinnipiac University Drug and Alcohol Policy has had some minor changes from last year, including more education for students and administration eliminated the fine system.

In past years, if an underage student was caught with an open container, they were fined a certain amount depending on the severity of the situation.

This year, the student is not fined, but they have to go through a judicial hearing process with members of the division of Student Affairs and Residential Life staff. Everything is recorded and many times, the student may have to meet with someone in the counseling center, along with Drucker to determine if further action is necessary.

“Everything is proactive and we really want the students to be educated.” Drucker added.

When students see that the staff cares and is not just a means of punishment and discipline, Drucker believes they may be more eager to learn how to help themselves.

The alcohol policy is still just that and is not meant to be taken lightly. Everything is documented and students are made aware of exactly what will happen if caught with alcohol. Students are left accountable for their actions because, as college students, administration feels students need to be treated as adults.

“We practice what we preach,” Drucker said. “We are honest with students and there are no surprises.”

The Hamden police department has helped by being more available in campus on the weekends and there are always RA’s on duty to help and watch out for problems.

Student Samantha Smith said, “It’s good that the university is making the campus safer on the weekends by having the police here, but drinking still seems to be an issue on campus, as it is on many campuses all over.”

Matthew Oliveri, a Quinnipiac University student in the class of 2002 died last March in an alcohol-related incident. He was left alone in his apartment “to sober up” but was found dead later that morning because no one knew how to help him.

His father donated money to educate college students about the dangers of drinking and how to help a friend in need. Small cards were made and are available in the Student Affairs building and were placed in every resident room on campus with facts of what to do and what not to do when someone has alcohol poisoning.

Wednesday, February 26, Mark Sterner, a TKE alumnus (not from Quinnipiac) was here to speak about his experience and how he learned about alcohol the hard way.

He was on Spring Break in Florida in 1994 and ended up with three felony convictions and three years in prison because he was “the least drunk” of his fellow brothers with a blood alcohol level of .17 and was chosen to drive them back to their hotel.

Unfortunately, instead of being the first in his family to graduate college, he was the first to do jail time for killing three of his fraternity brothers in a car crash. Sterner came here to share his awful story and educate students of the dangers of driving while intoxicated.

Speakers and stories have left impacts and hopefully taught students valuable lessons about the realities of irresponsible drinking. Faculty members urge students to not let themselves or their friends become statistics.

* Statistics provided by SADD; Students Against Destructive Decisions