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February 15, 2007

Spring break poses hazards for college women

With spring break coming up in about a month (March 12-16), it seems timely to post this AP story from last March about the American Medical Association's warning to young women about the dangers of spring break.

I'll be looking for and posting some safer alternative spring break trips and activities as I find them (see the first 2 recommendations at the bottom of this e-mail)--and if you have any recommendations, please add them in the comments or send them to me in an e-mail.

Updated: 12:03 p.m. CT March 17, 2006
CHICAGO - The American Medical Association is warning girls not to go wild during spring break.

All but confirming what goes on in those “Girls Gone Wild? videos, 83 percent of college women and graduates surveyed by the AMA said spring break involves heavier-than-usual drinking, and 74 percent said the break results in increased sexual activity.

The women’s answers were based both on firsthand experience and the experiences of friends and acquaintances.

Sizable numbers reported getting sick from drinking, and blacking out and engaging in unprotected sex or sex with more than one partner, activities that increase their risks for sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

The AMA is trying to call attention to underage drinking among women because their bodies process alcohol differently and put them at greater risk for health problems, Dr. J. Edward Hill, AMA’s president, said Tuesday.

The AMA-commissioned online survey queried a nationwide random sample of 644 college women or graduates ages 17 to 35 last week.

Kathleen Fitzgerald, a 21-year-old junior at Illinois State University, said the AMA’s effort to raise awareness is a good idea, but probably won’t do much to curb drinking during spring break.

“I think a lot of students wouldn’t really pay that much attention to it,? Fitzgerald said. “They would just be like, ‘Duh, that’s why we do it.?’

About 30 percent of women surveyed said spring break trips with sun and alcohol are an essential part of college life.

Also, 74 percent said women use spring break drinking as an excuse for “outrageous? behavior that the AMA said could include public nudity and dancing on tables.

Of the 27 percent who said they had attended a college spring break trip:

*More than half said they regretted getting sick from drinking on the trip.
*About 40 percent said they regretted passing out or not remembering what they did.
*13 percent said they had sexual activity with more than one partner.
*10 percent said they regretted engaging in public or group sexual activity.
*More than half were underage when they first drank alcohol on a spring break trip.

The AMA said the findings highlight the need for alternative spring break activities. For example, the University of Nebraska, Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and the University of Wisconsin offer spring break “service? trips.

Gemma Kite, a 21-year-old Lehigh junior, is in Brunswick, Ga., for spring break this week, helping build a house for Habitat for Humanity.

“It’s so much fun. We’re working outside in the sun,? Kite said.

She said many students see spring break as “your chance to go wild and crazy in a different country where no one’s going to know you.? Kite admitted those trips have a certain appeal, and she hopes to take a more party-oriented vacation next year.

“I like to have my fun,? Kite said.


Here's a link to some U of M Habitat for Humanity trips to get your student started.

And Students Today Leaders Forever is offering its popular "Pay It Forward" tours again this spring break.

November 3, 2006

U searching for ways to address alcohol abuse

From Inside Higher Ed:

The charm may have gone out of smoking, but a survey released Thursday suggests that students in Minnesota remain a hard drinking crowd. The study’s author said the results show that tobacco reduction programs can be effective, but that campus health officials have to think up creative solutions to lessen binge drinking.

“We’ve tried to reduce the binge drinking rate with no success,? said the study’s author, Ed Ehlinger, director of Boynton Health Service, which serves students and others at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus.

The study explored alcohol and tobacco use among 7,638 undergraduates at 12 Minnesota colleges and universities during the spring of 2006. Most of the colleges showed significant drops in current and daily tobacco use by students from the previous survey in 2005. Current use was defined as smoking within the last 30 days. From 1998 to 2006, daily tobacco use among students at the University of Minnesota dropped from 9.8 percent to 4.6 percent, and current use fell from 41.8 percent to 26.4 percent.

Ehlinger said that students at University of Minnesota probably have slightly lower rates of smoking than do other students in the state because Minneapolis recently put in place a public smoking ban.

But he acknowledged that the colleges have had far more trouble lowering the rates of high risk drinking, defined by the consumption of five or more drinks in one sitting. Almost 48 percent of males reported having engaged in high risk drinking within the previous two week period, as did almost 40 percent of females.

Policies have failed to lower heavy drinking, which Ehlinger called an “intractable problem? at campuses in Minnesota, which he attributed — though he admitted it was speculation — to the “drinking culture? that he said is pervasive in states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota. “They are the highest drinking states in the union,? he said.

Read the whole story and reader comments.

October 24, 2006

Students attending off-campus parties can be ticketed

even if they're not drinking.

WCCO has a story about a party patrol bust this weekend, in which 15 kegs were confiscated and 250 people ticketed for a party near campus. Two of ticketed students were not drinking--they were designated drivers for their friends--but still received citations for "noisy assembly."

Here's the story.

September 19, 2006

223 cited for underaged consumption since school started

The UMPD, the Minneapolis Police, the State Patrol, and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department have been collaborating to curb underage drinking on and around campus.

Watch the report from today's KMSP Fox 9 morning news.

September 1, 2006

University tightens policies on alcohol in res halls

Drinking in the dorms will be a tougher task this year at the University of Minnesota — even if you're legal.

A new Twin Cities campus policy this fall makes all but one of the traditional dormitories dry. Students at least 21 years old used to be able to bring alcohol into the buildings. The new policy, which took effect this week at the start of the new school year, forbids anyone from taking alcohol into the traditional residences, except for Centennial Hall.

U officials say the change sends the right signal about alcohol and school. Some students say while it won't stop drinking, it may curb some of the problems caused when legal-age students brought alcohol into a building and it got in the hands of underage students. It makes the lives of student-staffers in the halls easier, too, when they can say no beer here, no matter how old.

While it won't end drinking, the new policy sends a "strong message to our students of what our expectations are," said Susan Stubblefield, the U's assistant director of residential life.

Read the entire Pioneer Press story.

August 31, 2006

Off-campus fires often fueled by alcohol use

Today's USA TODAY examines the causes of recent fatal fires at off-campus residences across the nation. They found that alcohol use was a common denominator:

One-quarter of these fires followed a party, and in 59% of them, at least one of the dead students had been drinking, the USA TODAY analysis found. In 21 cases in which an autopsy report showed the deceased's blood alcohol content, the median level was .12%, and the highest was .304%. A person with an alcohol reading of .08% is considered by the nation's traffic laws to be too drunk to drive.

Students who have been drinking and then go to sleep may be especially vulnerable if a fire breaks out:

Experts say that alcohol can deaden sleeping students to the sounds and smells of danger.

"Even if you wake up in time, you may not make a rational decision. You may go down a hall toward a fire instead of away. You may not remember where emergency exits are," says Steven Avato, a special agent and certified fire investigator for U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"It makes your decision-making process much harder, if you are able to respond at all."

Read the whole story.

In addition to talking to your student about alcohol use, the Parent Program offers the following fire safety points you may want to discuss with students living in off-campus dwellings:

*Are smoke detectors working? Check batteries. Do not disable smoke detectors.
*Are there fire extinguishers? Do you know how to operate them? Are they in working order? Can you reach them easily?
*Think about an escape route from each room. If the doorway to a room is blocked, what is your alternative route? If you had to exit the room through a window, would you need a fire ladder?
*The most common causes of fire are candles, cigarettes, and halogen lights. Never leave candles burning unattended and never put anything (paper, fabric, etc.) over a halogen light.
*If wiring is exposed or if you notice problems with light fixtures or appliances, contact your landlord immediately for repairs.

March 24, 2006

Alcohol and risky behavior: different concerns for men and women

A recent federally-funded study on the drinking behaviors of college-age men and women reveals that you may want to take your student's gender into consideration when you talk to him or her about alcohol. Both male and female students may engage in risky behavior when they drink alcohol, but the type of risky behavior differs by gender.

The study indicates that women may get much more intoxicated than men, and it's not necessarily because they are smaller:

To quote the title of the presentation, “men drink beer, women drink liquor.? Participants agreed that this was true and had many implications, some of them negative for women. For example, a male student who knows he has a self-imposed limit of some number of beers can keep track (if he wants). There is much more variation in the potency of mixed drinks and a woman may not really have a good sense of whether she’s exceeded what she can safely consume. In addition, audience members reported that women on their campuses, when attending a party where only beer will be served, may drink by themselves or with other women before the party, so they can have non-beer booze, and as a result are drunk even before the men at the party.

Males and females also behave differently when they have had too much to drink, the study found. Men are less likely to get help for their intoxication, and more likely to go off by themselves and pass out, which can have dangerous consequences:

When women drink excessively, to the point where they are likely to throw up or pass out, they manage to get themselves inside, to a dorm room or bathroom. Many male students think nothing of collapsing outdoors. Someone inside is more likely to get help. And generally, audience members said, a woman’s female friends will intervene and help a woman or take her to the hospital. Male friends of male students are more likely to assume everything will be fine or that their friend would be embarrassed by getting help.

College women may be more inclined to engage in risky sexual behaviors when they have been drinking:

Some of the things being drunk allows men to do don’t pose much of a danger. For instance, audience members reported that many of their male students say that they will only dance with their girlfriends after a buzz and will only share deeply emotional feelings that way. In contrast, many female students report that being drunk allows them to feel comfortable having sex with people they don’t know well — something they might not do sober and that may involve risks or unsafe behavior.

March 21, 2006

"Mission Improvable" returns to Gophers After Dark

"Mission Improvable," a free improvisational comedy show that was a great hit last year, returns to Coffman Union's Great Hall this Saturday night.

If you're not familiar with Gophers After Dark, it's a program offering free and low cost late night programming for U students every Friday and Saturday night in Coffman Union. Free movies are screened in Coffman's theater (this weekend's film is King Kong), and students can participate in organized activities like speed dating, poker tournaments, trivia contests or craftmaking, or attend comedy or live music concerts.

Other activities this weekend include karaoke, bowling and billiards, jewelry making, and an ice cream sundae bar.

Check out the complete Gophers After Dark schedule here.

March 10, 2006

AMA surveys college women on spring break drinking and sex

...and find that large numbers of college women are engaging in unhealthy behaviors, the Baltimore Sun reports:

More than half of those who went on spring break regretted having gotten sick from drinking; 83 percent had friends who drank most nights while on spring break. And about six in 10 women knew friends who were sexually active with more than one partner.

Some of the young women surveyed believed that the way spring break trips are marketed is partially responsible for encouraging college women to engage in risky behaviors:

Typically, the event is portrayed as an alcohol-fueled orgy of sex and sun. Eighty-four percent of respondents said that such images contribute to an increase in reckless behavior by women.

and here, a couple of college students comment on behaviors they've witnessed:

At spring break in Jamaica last year, young women got into a lot of trouble, said Ryan Moreland, 21, a Johns Hopkins University student who was there with fraternity brothers.

"It seems like they let loose and just don't care about anything," he said. "The women become targets and victims because at the end of the night, you've got to go home with someone."

"People consume excessive amounts of alcohol, go to sketchy clubs in strange cities," said Stephanie Leaman, 21, a Hopkins student who's seen women make out with men for money at spring break in Daytona and Cocoa Beach, Fla. "It's no wonder things happen."

and on a completely different note, University of Minnesota students from student groups Campus Outreach, Hillel, and the Rock, will be traveling to points along the Gulf coast to help "mud out" houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Read more about their efforts in the MN Daily. Campus Outreach will be blogging about their trip here.

March 9, 2006

Round-up of Minnesota Daily articles

For those U of M students lucky enough to be spending next week in warm, sunny climes, today's Minnesota Daily offers advice from University health experts on dealing with three risky behaviors associated with spring break:


High-risk drinking during spring break can lead to negative consequences.

One of the biggest concerns about partying is that students underestimate how intoxicated they are, said Dana Farley, director of health promotion at Boynton Health Service.

“As their (blood alcohol) level increases to over .12 … about 90 percent underestimate their level of intoxication,? he said.

At this level of impairment, students tend to make bad decisions and are more vulnerable to crime, he said.

having sex:

Spring break parties can lead to unintended promiscuity. Students risk contracting sexually transmitted infections for the thrill of a one-night stand.

Dave Golden, director of public health and marketing for Boynton Health Service, said students often count on the odds that they won’t catch an infection.

“But eventually their luck is going to run out,? he said. “That we clearly, clearly see.?

Golden said Boynton gets more students coming in with sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, after spring break.

and tanning:

One of the fastest growing groups of skin cancer patients are women 35 and younger. This might be why dermatologists don’t support tanning.

“We’re anti-tanning,? said Matthew McClelland, a resident of dermatology. “Tanning is a sign of sun damage.?

He warns that long sun exposure can lead to skin cancer.

“People who are young don’t think about skin cancer down the road, but melanoma can be fatal,? McClelland said.

Daily columnist John Hoff weighs in on making productive use of spring break:

If your spring break plans include earning a paycheck, catching up on homework or other admirable plans to be productive instead of drinking and sunbathing on South Padre Island, Texas, you aren’t alone. In fact, despite a persistent stereotype of boozy collegiate debauchery in sunny climates, more students at the University will spend mid-March visiting family, completing their taxes and filling out forms to apply for financial aid than drinking a margarita the size of a goldfish bowl while sunbathing in Cancún, Mexico.

A U of M CA mourns his 16 year-old cousin, who recently died of a drug overdose, and urges University community members to intervene if they see a friend or neighbor becoming dependent on alcohol or other substances:

As a community adviser, I witness a lot of the same attitude with respect to other things like alcohol and pot. At the beginning of the year, I see people start off well, build a social circle and enjoy themselves. As the year wears on, however, I often see the same people regress into a shell of who they were. More than seeing their grades suffer (which they often do), I witness a destruction of what made them who they were. I gradually see less and less of them in their sober state, as they forget about the dreams they had but have now given up on. Gradually, I lose the ability to connect with them as I am left with little to talk about — the relationship becoming nothing more than a hello and goodbye.

I really do not want to appear prudish or naïve with regards to alcohol on campus. Drinking can be fun, and I like going to the bars as much as the next person, but then again, drinking is not the default activity for me when I’m bored. I also think I appreciate how alcohol can change a person’s life even before it becomes an addiction. In any case, I wish people might be conscious of how addiction — to anything — can originate in the most innocuous of circumstances, but then consume what was once a life full of potential.

I cling to the belief that no matter the background of a person, they possess the ability to rise above the gloom that dependency casts on them. If you have a friend who seems to hit the bottle a bit too frequently, talk to them. If it is a matter of the social pressure to partake, hey, I didn’t drink until I was 21, simply because people expected the opposite.

With Christopher’s death, I suppose I have thought about alcohol and its effects on people because examples of its risks abound all over the place. I could talk of addiction and how it makes people I know — and knew — hollow remnants of the past. I could talk about the abuse that has happened as a result of alcohol in the homes of friends of mine. I could talk about the slow, almost imperceptible erosion of goals due to the increasing importance of alcohol in the lives of people I know. I could talk about the real reason CAs write people up for alcohol — and it is not from a desire to do more paperwork or to be a “policeman.?

And finally, students criticize Housing and Residential Life's policy for moving students between residence halls without the students' consent. Housing and Res Life explains that students can be reassigned for any reason, but usually it is for behavior, health or safety reasons:

Coordinator of Residential Life Wachen Anderson said the University has the right to move students when necessary.

The University Housing and Residential Life signs a contract with students guaranteeing them a bed, Anderson said. That contract also indicates that students can be reassigned for any reason, she said.

Anderson did not comment on any specific issues, but said students could be reassigned because of something as drastic as flooding, but is more commonly done for behavior, health or safety issues.

Anderson said student reassignment is common and said about 50 students dealt with reassignments last academic year.

“There is typically something precipitating it,? she said. “It’s not just, I don’t like my roommate anymore.?

Anderson said having students moved takes a lot of consideration but typically is done for a good reason.

“We have a pretty good cause to move someone,? she said.

March 2, 2006

Minneapolis Star Tribune covers Parent Alcohol Course discussion

jointly hosted by the Parent Program and the Department of Family Social Science and attended by officials from about 20 other colleges and universities:

Although readers older than 30 may roll their eyes at the thought -- what kind of college student listens to parents? -- the tight ties between this generation of college kids and their parents make the connection worth exploiting, said Marjorie Savage, director of the U Twin Cities campus' Parent Program.

While older generations remember college as a time when they separated from their parents, Twin Cities campus surveys show that one in five students talk to their parents at least once a day, while 90 percent talk to them at least once a week, Savage said. If something goes wrong, students call their parents first.

"Parents do make a difference," Savage said. "Students listen to what they say."

The online course, free to all parents of University of Minnesota-Twin Cities students, gives parents a close look at the culture of drinking and risk-taking, and statistics surrounding alcohol use on this campus.

Risk-taking is normal for college-age students, officials said, but many parents are naive about what their kids do when they leave home for college. While college-bound high school students are less likely to drink than their peers who are not going to college, when students head to college, the trends reverse: Drinking among the "good students" who enter college soars, while it sinks in the other group.

Potential drinkers include all the former high school athletes who behaved to keep their eligibility as well as the academic stars. Parents need to understand that everything is different in college, officials said. Classes and studying are harder, and students aren't coming home every night to their parents.

The new environment is reflected in the reasons U students give for drinking. Topping the list is "something to do," followed by "breaks the ice" and "enhances social activity."

Drinking also differs from what many parents remember from their college years, said Dana Farley, director of health promotion at the U's Boynton Health Service. Risky drinking is up, alcoholic beverages are stronger and marketed more to young people, and more bars use specials to draw young people in and to keep them there, he said.

Read the whole story here. A sidebar to the story offers the following tips for talking to your student about drinking:

• Don't just e-mail, talk regularly.

• Use news stories about student alcohol use as a point to start a conversation about alcohol.

• Don't grill your child; use indirect questions such as "What do students do at parties?" that can lead to a genuine discussion.

• Keep talking even if you disapprove of what you're hearing, and stay calm. It's a chance to talk about safety and possible financial, legal and academic concerns that students may not consider.

• Know your campus' "drinking calendar." Events such as homecoming spur partying; drinking often spikes in February, during spring break and at the end of the school year.

• Ask what there is to do on campus that doesn't involve drinking, encouraging students to think of alternatives to alcohol.

Have you tried any of these approaches with your student? Have you tried another approach that has been successful?

February 27, 2006

Parent Program shares online course about drinking with other schools

Tomorrow, Marj will be meeting with officials from other universities to share information on our online course for parents about alcohol. The Pioneer Press has a brief article about it.

The University of Minnesota found a ready audience of parents when it built an online course for them about student life and alcohol. Now the class is attracting interest from colleges around Minnesota and the country.

"First Year Seminar for Parents: Alcohol Use on Campus" has drawn about 225 parents. Evaluations show that parents learned about student alcohol use and that they planned to talk to their children, said Marj Savage, director of the U's parent program.

Savage will meet Tuesday with student life and health officials from about 20 universities and colleges, including several University of Wisconsin campuses and the University of Michigan.

A recent report showed that binge-drinking is on the rise at the U.

Forty-five percent of undergraduates reported "high-risk" drinking, according to the Boynton Health Service survey. That was up from 40 percent in a 2004 report and was the highest percentage in 13 years of data. High-risk drinking is defined as having five or more drinks in one sitting.

Parents affect student behavior, says Savage, who helped build the course along with U family social science professor Jodi Dworkin. The course notes that students are less likely to binge if they perceive their parents know what's going on and disapprove.

U of M parents can still enroll in the course at no charge.

February 21, 2006

What role do parents play in educating college students about drinking?

Next Tuesday, the University of Minnesota's Parent Program and the Department of Family Social Science are convening a workshop addressing the role of parents in addressing college drinking. Representatives from 18 different universities will be attending. We'd like to hear your input so we can incorporate it into our discussion.

What is the appropriate role for parents in addressing drinking among college students? Do you have any tips for talking to students about alcohol? Would you like to work in partnership with the University in addressing alcohol consumption, and if so, how would you like the University to work with you?

Comments, questions, suggestions--all input is welcome.

February 16, 2006

Discuss book about drinking and adolescents with other parents

Recently, the Student Affairs Book Club met to discuss Koren Zailckas's Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood, both a memoir of the author's abuse of alcohol during her high school and college years, and an analysis of the culture of drinking that the author sees as a growing trend among adolescent girls. Zailckas's story illustrates that an adolescent's drinking is not always apparent to the caring adults surrounding him or her, and outlines some of the behaviors and attitudes that parents may want to look for.

The University Bookstores is offering a 20% discount on the book throughout the month of February--you can purchase the book by clicking "Add to basket" on the left side of the screen. Starting on March 1, I will begin posting questions for U parents about college (and high school) students and alcohol use, and hope you will join in the discussion. If you have questions you would like asked, please post them as comments after this entry or email them to me.

Heavy drinking is a growing problem on college campuses, including this one. A recent newsmaking report issued by the University's Boynton Health Service shows a dramatic increase in binge drinking among U of M students.

The University offers resources to educate both parents and students about alcohol abuse. The Parent Program and the Department of Family Social Sciences collaborated to create an online course about alcohol use on campus, which is now being offered at no charge to University of Minnesota parents. The course provides information and support to help family members talk with their student about alcohol use and abuse. It also offers national and campus-based statistics, tips for talking about alcohol, comments from parents and students, online discussion opportunities, and a list of resources available on campus.

The Minnesota Daily reported earlier this week on some of the resources available to students.