UI officials to focus on binge drinking

BY ADAM JACOBS | AUGUST 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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As the University of Iowa’s top party-school ranking has dropped, so has the school’s student binge-drinking rates.

According to a health behavior and wellness study conducted in 2014 by the UI, out of more than 30,000 students, 54.1 percent binge, and 27.4 percent are classified as heavy drinkers.

In 2009 the binge-drinking rate for UI students was 70.3 percent.

UI President Sally Mason said on Tuesday that the university has taken steps in recent years to combat the overconsumption of alcohol with the Partnership for Alcohol Safety acting as her enforcer.

“This is something we’ve been watching carefully over the past five years,” she said. “We’ve had a task force in place that has been dealing with the issue. For me, the good news there is we are seeing significant improvements in lowering the rates of binge drinking and frequent drinking by students on our campus.”

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as the consumption of five or more drinks on an occasion, and heavy drinking as indulging in this practice on five or more occasions per month.

On average 40.1 percent of college students binge-drink, with 14.4 percent heavy drinking, according to the institute.

The Partnership for Alcohol Safety, an organization affiliated with both the UI and the city of Iowa City have alcohol-abuse education is one of the main tools used by partnership to combat alcohol abuse.

Incoming freshmen are required to take the online class, E-checkup To Go, and sophomores are encouraged to take the Healthy Hawk Challenge, with incentives like a $5 Hawk Shop gift card for completing the course.

The UI hopes to continue to decrease the trend of binge drinking by capitalizing on alcohol educational opportunities and providing fun alcohol-free activities for students.

“We will continue to expand late-night program offerings for students,” said Tom Rocklin, UI vice president for Student Life.

Rocklin said the UI needs to continue to create late -night opportunities for the quarter of its students who don’t consume alcohol.

Joe Brennan, UI vice president for Strategic Communication, pointed out the numerous factors that go into the practice of binge drinking.

Brennan argued that the practice of binge drinking has become a part of teen culture with a large portion of teens participating in binge drinking before college.

“This high-risk behavior is more prevalent in the upper Midwest for some reason,” Brennan said.

With the majority of UI students hailing from upper Midwest areas such as Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, the school’s location may very well be a reason for its high binge-drinking rates, he said.

Rocklin said he thinks white men and those who live in rural areas are more prone to abuse alcohol, making the UI’s student market a hotbed for binge drinkers.

Mason said while she is pleased with current progress, she still wants to see improvements.

“Five or six years ago, I was frankly embarrassed by rates of binge drinking that exceeded the national average significantly,” Mason said. “We obviously need to continue to work on this and drop even further. That is the goal.”

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