A Message About Dangerous Drinking

January 24, 2007

By Bill Mahon
Co-chair of the Town-Gown Partnership United Against Dangerous Drinking and assistant vice president of University relations at Penn State

A new year and new semester are good times to think about fresh starts.

Penn State is not immune to the many alcohol-related tragedies occurring around the country, and we want to update parents and families of our students about the situation.

Young people are dying of alcohol overdoses and in drunk-driving crashes in high numbers around the United States. We have seen too many of those tragedies to our own students during the past couple years. Some of those student deaths have occurred here in State College, and others have occurred during holiday and semester breaks while students are away from campus.

Locally the number of drunken driving crashes have broken new records during 2006. More than 1,000 drunken driving arrests were made in Centre County last year.

Visits to the emergency room of the Mount Nittany Medical Center for alcohol overdoses have risen during the past couple years for Penn State students. Also, the students who are taken to the ER have more alcohol in their bodies than they did a few years ago, they are younger in age, and a larger percentage of the overdoses are in female students than used to be the case.

Approximately 90 alcohol businesses are located within a five-mile radius of the University Park campus. There are many different opportunities to drink and there is a larger national trend of young people taking part in dangerous drinking.

I am asking you to encourage your student to make smart choices, to be careful, and to make sure he or she has someone--preferably someone sober--looking out for them, especially at night and on weekends.

This is not a Penn State problem. This is not a State College problem. It is a national problem.

Penn State President Graham Spanier a decade ago cited alcohol as the number one problem facing colleges and universities. Since then Penn State has launched a number of programs to address the issue and some of them are now models being used elsewhere around the country.

But the best programs in the nation can't compete with peer pressure, five-cent beer specials, and hundreds of ads in the student and local newspapers encouraging people to go out and drink.

We hope you and your family have a great year. We hope to do all we can to help your student succeed and remain safe while here at Penn State. When they call home, e-mail or trade text messages with you this semester, talk to your children about dangerous drinking.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009