Talk to your student about dangerous drinking

Editor's Note: The following is an open letter from Bill Mahon, co-chair of the Campus and Community Partnership United Against Dangerous Drinking and assistant vice president for University Relations.

Along Interstate 83, as you travel north in Maryland about a mile before the Pennsylvania border, is one of those roadside memorials that have become common in recent years. You can see the makeshift memorial clearly from the road at 65 miles per hour, but without stopping you won't know what those four white crosses represent.

Three of the crosses are a memorial for three Penn State students who died on the road one weekend night in September 2004 while returning home in the early morning hours from a bachelor party. Police report the driver was drunk. The fourth cross is to remember another person who was riding in the car that night who also died. (See the crosses at http://live.psu.edu/still_life/2005_08_15_dui/index.html online.)

Eight months later, at the end of the school year in May 2005, a Penn State student died in an early morning fire here in the borough of State College. It is a complex case, but investigators have suggested old wiring in the building, non-working smoke detectors in the building, and a party the night before involving alcohol contributed to the death of the Penn State student.

Alcohol is killing many college students around the country each year. Since Penn State is a large university, it is not unusual to see students die or suffer serious injuries as the result of alcohol-related incidents.

Penn State and the surrounding State College community overall are considered very safe places to live, work and study, according to rankings of such quality of life issues by various national groups. But the one aspect of this community that can be a problem is dangerous drinking.

I encourage you to have a discussion about the alcohol issue with your family members who may be coming to study here in the fall. Much of the research done in this area indicates that frank discussions between parents and their young adult children about the alcohol issue can have a positive impact.

If you would like to know more about what we have been doing here at Penn State on the alcohol issue or want resources on the topic of dangerous drinking, visit http://live.psu.edu/story/4536 online.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010