Archive for Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Landlords, police, university team up to handle underage drinking, overindulgence at house parties

University, law enforcement and community efforts to curb high-risk drinking among college-age students are showing results in Lincoln.

University, law enforcement and community efforts to curb high-risk drinking among college-age students are showing results in Lincoln.

March 10, 2010


Lessons from Lincoln

There is a perception in Lincoln, Neb., that people will be held accountable for exhibiting irresponsible drinking behavior.

Tom Casady, Lincoln, Neb., police chief (pictured), and Linda Major, assistant to the vice chancellor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, are the two leading forces behind the community's efforts to curb high-risk drinking among college-age students.

Tom Casady, Lincoln, Neb., police chief (pictured), and Linda Major, assistant to the vice chancellor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, are the two leading forces behind the community's efforts to curb high-risk drinking among college-age students.

Measuring results

University of Nebraska-Lincoln officials say the Lincoln community’s efforts to reduce high-risk drinking have led to these survey results reported by students:

Statistic 1997 2008
Binge Drinking Rate 62 percent 45.1 percent
Get behind in school 28.6 percent 18.9 percent
Unplanned sexual activity 32 percent 14.5 percent
Damage property 16.9 percent 9.3 percent
Do something you regret 48.9 percent 35.9 percent
Drove after 5 or more drinks 25.6 percent 16 percent
Been insulted or humiliated 42.9 percent 20.3 percent
Babysit a drunk student 66 percent 55.5 percent
Unwanted sexual advance 58.7 percent 17.7 percent

House parties were getting out of control, binge drinking was among the highest of all the nation’s college towns, and Lincoln police had thrown in the towel on the alcohol problem.

“In a way, we were enablers. We had given up on it to the extent that there was no sense in Lincoln by young people that there were any repercussions if you had an out-of-control drinking party or if you were drinking underage,” said Police Chief Tom Casady. “That perception has changed pretty dramatically.”

Now there are repercussions for everything: for drinking underage; for throwing a wild house party; for serving alcohol to someone who is already drunk; for drinking in on-campus and Greek housing.

The repercussions are harsh: fines, arrests and public embarrassment for throwing a party; tavern violations for serving people illegally; and expulsion from school for drinking on University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus or in a fraternity or sorority house.

And the efforts have made a significant impact: fewer students are binge drinking, having unplanned sex and drinking and driving; the number of house parties has gone down 43 percent in the last five years; and fewer crimes are related to high-risk alcohol use, including fights, vandalism and robbery.

“We are an island of progress in a sea of binge drinking,” Casady said.

Patients, persistence

Community leaders didn’t just snap their fingers and sit back and wait for the rates to dwindle. Their efforts to reduce high-risk drinking were well thought out; took several years to implement; and came with resistance from politicians, neighbors and students.

Now, the community’s on board with the efforts to curb dangerous drinking.

“They realize that this might not be popular with every single retailer, that we might occasionally chafe an individual landlord, but they understand that the upside of these kinds of strategies is for the good,” Casady said.

The efforts go back almost 20 years, when UNL leaders began encouraging all 19 fraternity and 13 sorority houses on campus to buy into the school’s no-alcohol policy. It is now strictly enforced in all on-campus student living quarters, as well as inside all the university’s fraternities and sororities. Violators can be expelled from school, and the across-the-board rules are well known and respected by students.

“The minute I took office, I made it very clear that if someone was caught drinking in this house, there would be punishments,” said Matt Pederson, current UNL senior and former Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter president.

But the efforts didn’t stop there.


After some persuasion, landlords are now working with police to hold tenants who throw parties accountable; bar owners are considering raising their drink prices, to avoid cheap intoxication; and students are fighting to keep a safe ride service in place that provides free taxi rides home to those who overindulge.

“I’ve just been very pleased with the way the campus and the community have come together,” said Linda Major, assistant to UNL’s vice chancellor, who is the main leader behind the entire community effort, officially dubbed NU Directions.

When they look back at their efforts more than a decade later, initiative organizers realize their ideas have become institutionalized in the community and that their work has produced results and must also continue.

Major admits the financial backing from a 10-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Medical Association played a significant role in the efforts, but she said other campuses with alcohol problems should dig in and get their feet wet.

“Don’t be afraid,” Major said. “It’s not been our experience that parents, students or the state at large looks at you negatively.”

She said it’s been a great way to involve students in professional projects, by helping develop campaigns, research strategies and marketing ideas.

With the problems being different for each college community, Major often tells leaders at other campuses they must let the data lead them to where solutions are needed. For Lincoln, it was high-risk drinking in the community, neighborhoods and bars.

“It was very important the community became our partner in this project,” she said. “Once people knew we were serious about high-risk drinking and improving quality of life, they became partners in this.”


Scruggsy 8 years, 3 months ago

"bar owners are considering raising their prices, to avoid cheap intoxication".... 50 cent natty lights? Really? Wow. But don't dare have a house party- because we'll kick yer door in...

hooligan01 8 years, 3 months ago

I agree with you LarryNative. All of this portraying Lincoln as good, they have the same amount of problems everyone else does. Just cause they MIGHT have manged to solve one means there are other problems not being focused on.

maclothier 8 years, 3 months ago

Sorry about the re-post, but I came to a discussion on one of the articles a bit late it appears, so here I go again ("on my own..."):

My problem with the articles is that Lincoln's "results" are all statistically-based, which is fine. But if these statistics are supposed to relate to Lawrence (though the articles give little indication within them that they are), then how about some comparable statistical data (other than two alcohol-related deaths), showing how much better Lincoln is ten years into their program than Lawrence is today? Perhaps that "connective" article is forthcoming, but at this point it seems as if Fray is just holding up Lincoln's data and saying, "See!" without making any pertinent, factual connections between the two towns' predicaments other than "drinking problem", which is a bit too vague for me.

jhwkgrl52 8 years, 3 months ago

Patients or patience? Does anyone proofread this stuff?

pfeifer 8 years, 3 months ago

I'm so sick and tired of hearing about Lincoln, NE. What is this the 3rd or 4th article in the last couple days? Do we not have enough news around here? Good God, find something else to talk about.

christy kennedy 8 years, 3 months ago

What is all the griping about? At least in Lincoln there's an ongoing effort underway and I appreciate that the LJW is bringing up the issue — it's quite obviously a problem here too and is not being addressed in any sort of coordinated manner. It's not something that can be quickly or easily fixed to everyone's satisfaction, and every year brings a new batch of students, and many, away from home for the first time, don't have the experience or judgment to drink safely. Most of the complaining commenters seems to be by individuals in favor of doing whatever it is they like to do — which is fine if you don't become somebody else's problem. But how one person has figured out how to handle their alcohol consumption has nothing to do with realistically addressing the big picture. And from what I've seen in my neighborhood (which is little or no enforcement of a large amount of outdoor, underage drinking) I don't know how some of those commenting here and after the other article are coming up with "van loads" of police "kicking down doors" when people are having parties in houses. That's a bit of a leap that I can't see at all. So why not become involved in a productive discussion and solution finding. Like they say in those 12 step programs, first you have to admit you have a problem. Lawrence, like many other places, has a problem

Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

And some local developers are truly adding to the problem in a huge way. Their plan of turning Mass Street and downtown into more and more bars is irresponsible. It will add to the cost of keeping enough police enforcement = way more tax dollars AND it sends the wrong message to young people.

Who wants to send their irresponsible children to a town that is advocating drinking and more drinking and yet more drinking. Ever wonder why Lawrence, ONCE a family town, is having serious problems with economic growth?

Economic Growth Problems in Lawrence

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