Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Nittany Lion: Shitfaced Again

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has lengthy article on efforts by the State College police department to crackdown on underage drinking. The story should be familiar to those of you who live here.
"People are drinking faster to get drunk," said borough Police Lt. Dana Leonard.

"The first eight weeks of the fall semester are what we call the Red Zone. The weather is still warm and the newly arriving students have plenty of money in their pockets," he said. "There is a celebratory atmosphere around Penn State football games."

The semester's early weeks can be even more dangerous for freshmen. "They're relatively naive," Lt. Leonard said.


About 4,000 of the 7,000 incidents handled annually by State College police involve alcohol, a share that has been rising in recent years, according to department data.

Often, officers on the midnight shift rush from call to call, breaking up street fights, aiding young people unconscious outside bars, or -- as was the case around midnight this same Friday -- a young man passed out while seated on a public transit bus.

"I've seen people with an extremely low pulse near death," said Officer Andrew Sim, one of two SIP officers working the midnight shift. "Once we finally do slow down, at 3 or 4 a.m., just driving around the streets you'll see someone laid out on the sidewalk, lying in a yard.

"In winter months there are hypothermia issues. You don't know how long they've been lying there," he said. "They're just soaking wet in the snow.''

Among those cited this summer as a result of an SIP investigation was a fraternity suspected of supplying alcohol to a teenager who later fractured his skull in two places and broke his collarbone trying to do a back flip off a wall outside the post office.

In all, 89 citations for furnishing alcohol to minors were issued in the borough last year, 37 percent more than in the year before SIP debuted. Most are older Penn State students, including hosts of off-campus apartment parties where students sometimes drink for free, Lt. Leonard said.


If Penn State has been unable to quell dangerous drinking, it's not for lack of initiatives.

It has an array of enforcement, education and counseling programs and will use Liquor Control Board money this fall to add campus SIP patrols. Non-alcoholic activities are regular weekend fare in the Hetzel Union Building, and a year ago, Penn State banned alcohol from tailgate parties from kickoff to final play at Beaver Stadium, the 107,000-seat home of Nittany Lions football.

Even so, alcohol-related trips by students to Mount Nittany Medical Center are up from 199 in 1999-2000 to 444 in the 2006-2007 school year. The average age of those treated is 20 years old, and their average blood alcohol content has risen to 0.235, nearly three times the state's legal limit for an adult.
The reason the problem persists is that Penn State doesn't actually think that it bears any responsibility for the problem. The fact that the University appointed its chief bullshit artist to head up the committee to deal with the problem should indicate to everyone that Penn State sees this as primarily a pr problem. And the pr strategy for dealing with the problem is to shift the blame to someone else, anyone else. It's the PLCB's fault; no no, it's the bars' fault; no I've got it, the problem is with the hair salons.
Bill Mahon, a Penn State administrator [bullshit artist] who co-chairs a town-and-gown committee on dangerous drinking, said he'd like to think the emergency room trips meant awareness campaigns are making students more inclined to get help. But he cited other factors, including the debut of Sunday liquor sales in the state, loosening of bottle shop restrictions and a trend toward more dangerous drinking behaviors nationally on college campuses.

About 100 businesses serving alcohol are located within five miles of Penn State's Old Main administration building, and some aggressively market dollar-pitchers and 25-cent drafts. One hair salon near campus even advertises complimentary beer.

"It could be any combination of these things," Mr. Mahon said. "I don't think we're unique."

Two-thirds of those charged with drunk driving in the borough last year were not students, and Mr. Mahon said such ratios illustrate how far-reaching in society the problem is. "This is not just a student issue," he said.
So Bill would like to think-actually he wants you to think- that there isn't more heavy drinking, just more people seeking help. Damn I think the the Collegian received the "Graham Spanier Award for Most Outrageous Spin" last year for trying pedal that tripe. He also blames Sunday liquor sales-Sundays are actual fairly quiet around here-, loosening of bottle shop restrictions, and the favorite of teenagers everywhere, "But Mooooom, everybody's doing it." And about those 2/3's of non-student drunk driving arrests, how many are Penn State faculty and administrators? A group whose alcohol problem goes unnoticed because they tend not to fall out of open windows on to the sidewalks. Although I've seen one professor carried out of a bar, in front of some of his students, too drunk to walk .

Until Old Main owns up to the fact that Penn State's alcohol problem is, in fact, an academic problem there will be no solution.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You may well be right concerning non-student drinking contributing to the problem. However, inaction to the issue in-general is nothing new -- and PSU is not alone. Take Ohio State as an example. It pushed out its last President, Karen A. Holbrook -- often refered by the OSU alums as Karen A-Hole Brook -- after she took a no-nonsence approach to alcohol issues, especially binge drinking. At one point, she ordered campus police to crack down on drinking near the stadium -- regardless of who was doing the drinking. This simply made the adults angry. And everyone with even a casual interest in college football knows you can't p-o dues-paying alumni. Until those actually providing financial support admit there is a problem -- and call for the Administration to seriously address it -- student drinking will continue to be seen as a 'part of college life' -- and the issues that go along with it, may well be ignored as well.