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Archive for Thursday, August 31, 2000

Boulder and booze

August 31, 2000

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Our schools have substance abuse problems but Colorado has even more severe difficulties.

Kansas University and Kansas State University periodically show up on lists of "trendy" or "good party" schools. That is distressing to many who would prefer that our tremendous educational bargains not have such a reputation for fun and foolishness.

But for all their problems, KU, KSU and other area colleges have not yet had to go to the extent of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Last week, CU officials announced students will be suspended if convicted of abusing alcohol or drugs three times. That sounds as if there is more than just a casual problem, right? It gets worse.

Adding fuel to the edict is the fact there was another clash of Boulder police and some 1,000 student types last weekend. There was damage and people got hurt. Authorities said it was at least the fifth incident of its kind in the past three years.

Beer and other alcoholic beverages have been banned at this weekend's Colorado-Colorado State football game. The past two years, there have been serious difficulties during and after these fierce intrastate battles, and last year tear gas was needed to alleviate problems.

"This new use of our established sanctions does not mean a student cannot be suspended for his or her first offense. It just means that after three incidents, no matter how minor, a student will be suspended," said Ron Stump, vice chancellor for student affairs at CU.

Stump cited a university research program that found, to nobody's surprise, that a small number of students causes the majority of problems. The same students involved in the substance abuse incidents do not again no surprise do well in class, officials add.

The goal of the "three strikes, you're out" program is to reduce high-risk drinking among students or at least rid the school of the worst violators.

And this should be even more sobering, to pardon a pun. Robert Maust, director of A Matter of Degree, a grant-funded program at CU that examines alcohol issues, says:

"CU students have drinking patterns that are more serious than national averages. More students come to CU with established at-risk drinking behaviors than are found at the national level among college-bound students. In addition, many students, once enrolled, follow or adopt a drinking lifestyle that is much more aggressive and dangerous than the national average for college students."

It may amount to only faint praise, considering there are also drinking problems at KU and every other campus in America, but the Colorado evaluation is a far cry from the image one has of our colleges and universities.

The Boulder people have a problem, clearly, which is one reason Colorado often rates quite high on lists of "places to be" for fun-seekers. It would appear KU, K-State and other area schools are better off than they might think.

To Colorado's credit, it's embarking on a course to deal with the menace. We can only hope such measures do not become necessary around here.

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