October 12, 2010

University Releases Drinking Statistics

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In reports issued to the Student Assembly and The Sun, the University and several other organizations released statistics about the locations that students most often called the police when they had alcohol-related emergencies. According to a Cornell University Police Department report –– one of four reports issued thus far –– between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, of the 188 alcohol-related medical emergency calls made to the CUPD, 104 were dialed from residence halls, 71 from off-campus areas and 13 from fraternity or sorority grounds.

The reports were requested by the Student Assembly at the beginning of the semester after the announcement of the changes to the University Recognition Policy for fraternities and sororities, in order to try to get a sense for how the new policies would affect student drinking.

The City of Ithaca Police Department, the Cornell University Police Department, the Judicial Administrator, Gannett Health Services, and Cornell Residential Programs were all asked to provide available statistics on drinking in several resolutions sponsored by S.A. President Vince Andrews ’11.

Thus far, the Ithaca Police Department is the only organization to not respond to the request.

David Honan, deputy chief of the CUPD, cautioned about drawing too much from the statistics.

In the CUPD report, Honan said that “the location of the alcohol-related medical emergency is not an indicator of where the subject suffering the medical emergency consumed alcohol.”

Adam Gitlin ’13, S.A. vice president for internal operations, said the report provides an “accurate picture of what student life is on campus,” although any conclusions the report may imply are ambiguous at this point.

“The truth is, we’re in the process of taking all the information we received and analyzing it,” Gitlin said.

Honan added that although no specific statistics exist regarding where students most regularly consume alcohol, “it is common for a student to consume alcohol outside of their residence and then call for assistance when they return home and begin to feel ill or suffer a medical emergency.”

“Questions we have heard about the location of violations are either difficult or impossible to answer for a combination of reasons,” said Tim Marchell, director of mental health initiatives at Gannett. “For example, a person who is transported for alcohol poisoning may not recall where they drank, may have drank in multiple locations, or — in many cases — the person passes out in one location, like a residence hall, after drinking in another location.”

Mary Beth Grant, the University’s Judicial Administrator, agreed with Marchell and Honan.

Grant said in an e-mail statement that it is difficult to determine where individuals, who are referred to her office because of alcohol incidents, consumed the alcoholic beverages.

“For example, a case might be marked a ‘Greek’ because the student received a ticket in a Greek house, but she may have been drinking in Collegetown,” Grant said. “Or a student might have been at a Greek party, then returned to a residence hall and got a ticket for disorderly conduct.”

During the fall 2009 semester, according to a report by the Campus Life office, there were 22 incidents in the residential campus system in which students were found responsible for breaching the alcohol policies of the Code of Conduct. The Townhouse Community and Mary Donlon Hall appear to be the most recurrent locations for the violations, together responsible for eight out of the 22 incidents.

This past spring semester saw a slight increase in alcohol-related incidents in campus residence halls,  excluding J.A. referrals, with 24 violations to the campus Code of Conduct. Clara Dickson Hall was home to five of these incidents, and Donlon Hall saw four incidents.

A report compiled by Gannett provides further statistical evidence of the drinking pattern among Cornell students over the past years.

The data presented in the report was collected through surveys administered to randomly selected groups of Cornell undergraduates. The tables and other graphics presented in the report provide an overview of drinking patterns among all undergraduates, with a focus on the differences between fraternity and sorority members and non-members.

This report reveals that the mean number of drinks consumed in a typical school week by Cornell undergraduates between 2004 and 2009 has in fact decreased, among both Greeks and non-Greeks. In 2004, the mean number of drinks consumed by all undergraduates in a week was 5.58, while in 2009 the number had dropped to 4.49.

Nonetheless, despite the decreasing trend among all students, the differences in the average number of drinks consumed by Greeks and non-Greeks appear more significant.

The 2009 survey revealed that the average number of drinks consumed by members of the Greek system in a typical school week was 7.87, while for non-Greek students it was 3.15.

In addition, according to the Gannett report, findings from the same surveys also suggest that students from ethnic minority groups consume lower levels of alcohol compared to white students, with Asian-Pacific Islander students reporting even lower consumption levels than under-represented minority students.

Original Author: Patricio Martinez