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Alcohol hospitalizations increased from last fall semester

Student hospitalizations for alcohol increased from fall 2013 to fall 2014, according to data from Student Health Services. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVIA NADEL/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Student hospitalizations for alcohol increased from fall 2013 to fall 2014, according to data from Student Health Services. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVIA NADEL/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The number of Boston University students hospitalized for alcohol consumption in fall 2014 rose from the previous fall semester, according to data from Student Health Services.

However, while the number of alcohol transports has increased since the fall of 2013, the current numbers more closely resemble numbers observed in previous years, said Katharine Mooney, the director of BU Wellness and Prevention Services at SHS.

“Last year was sort of the strange year, and these numbers are actually more on par with the averages,” she said. “By and large, our students are drinking in responsible ways. There is the minority who are transported for alcohol.”

In the fall 2014 semester, 112 students were transported to a hospital for intoxication, compared to 89 students transported in 2013, according to the data from SHS, reported by BU Today Jan. 29. The average blood alcohol content of those transported was .19.

“Our data shows that one out of every three BU students chooses not to drink and that among those who do, two-thirds of students who drink do so in a safe way, meaning that they don’t have more than three drinks in a given occasion,” Mooney said.

BUPD Chief Thomas Robbins said the increase in alcohol transports can be credited to a greater awareness in the student body about the consequences of drinking too much.

“We have seen an increase in the number of alcohol transports in the fall semester, and I believe in large part the increase is a direct result of BUPD’s outreach efforts to educate students on the importance of getting help to someone in need of assistance due to intoxication,” he said.

Of all the alcohol transportations, 42 percent were freshmen, 32 percent were sophomores, 18 percent were juniors, 6 percent were seniors and 2 percent were other students, the data stated. More females were hospitalized for intoxication than males.

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore said although the number of students seeking medical assistance for their peers contributes to higher reports, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

“While I don’t want anyone to go to the hospital, I think that’s a positive thing … and may contribute to our numbers going up as well,” he said. “If the number is going up because people are being more cautious and a little bit more helpful to their friends and neighbors, well I’m happy that that is an important aspect of this too, but we still need to take a look at what some of the other correlates might be.”

SHS focuses on preventative services and community engagement to better educate students about alcohol, Mooney said.

“We ask students to complete AlcoholEdu before they come to campus, which gives them really good information,” she said. “We also work with first-year students, the CAS first year experience program, students that are a part of Greek organizations, student athletes. Across campus, we help students learn how to drink in safer ways if they make that decision to drink.”

BUPD will continue to work with student groups and community members to educate students through bystander intervention and prevention services, Robbins said.

“In addition, we will continue our enforcement efforts targeted at dangerous behavior including dangerous drinking and drug use,” he said. “It is my hope that through our efforts in education combined with enforcement, we will see a reduction in the number of alcohol transports over the next semester.”

Although the number of alcohol transports is on the rise, Mooney said she hopes that by the end of spring semester, the education and resources will decrease the number of hospitalizations.

“When you look at trends across all universities in the country, you’ll see more drinking happens in the fall semester at the beginning of school,” Mooney said. “Students are new to campus, and they want to meet people and use [alcohol] as a social lubricant to do that. For us, being in Boston with the weather, we see less drinking and fewer transports spring semester.”

Several students said BU has a variety of programs already in place to help students make responsible choices, but more can still be done.

Amanda McCallister, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, said programs like AlcoholEdu provide relevant material to students in terms of alcohol awareness.

“I definitely remember when we came to BU, we took the alcohol education thing, and I definitely found out some valuable information,” she said. “I do think that there’s this misperception about the number of kids who drink in college and that maybe a lot of people come into college feeling pressured to drink a lot.”

Mai Cao, a junior in the School of Management, said the increase in alcohol hospitalizations makes sense. When students first come to school, she said, the freedom can often bring trouble, but increased officer surveillance will help monitor illegal activity.

“When a freshman comes to college, a lot of times [drinking] is a new freedom for them, and there’s not a lot of adult supervision. There’s a lot more freedom for anyone to go and do anything they want,” she said. “I know [administration] is trying to take a lot of precaution. I know they have been monitoring a lot of the fraternities.”

Francesca Farrell, a freshman in the School of Hospitality Administration, said it is not possible to prevent all students from irresponsible alcohol use.

“Having the ambulances nearby on the weekends is as much as [administration] can do. They can’t go monitor everything,” she said.

Scott Paré, deputy director of public safety at BUPD, said the police department will continue to increase surveillance and education to prevent alcohol transports and work toward decreasing the number of alcohol-related hospitalizations from one semester to the next.

“The numbers [of hospitalizations] may trend up, but I’m hoping that at some point with all the education, that they start trending downward. Our enforcement has increased, and we are expecting to continue to increase,” he said. “We want everybody to be safe.”

Mina Corpuz contributed to the reporting of this article.

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