English: The Mountainlair is the Student Union...
English: The Mountainlair is the Student Union building at West Virginia University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Grapple is an old-fashion word…

You don’t often hear someone use the word “grapple” or the phrase “grappling with;” today we are using it in the sense of being engaged in a struggle or to try to overcome or deal with something. And the use of the word in this sense dates back to 1590s! But now we are in 2015 and late last week West Virginia University officials said in a press statement discussing the untimely death of student Nolan Burch “Alcohol abuse is an issue with which universities nationwide are grappling.”

For sure, alcohol abuse on college campuses is not new and sadly statistics indicate Nolan Burch was not the only college student to die last year as a result of alcohol use.

NBC News Rehema Ellis reports on Nolan Burch’s death

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can view it here. As you can see Nolan actually died on November 13, 2014, but now two and one-half months later the medical tests have been released showing that Nolan’s blood-alcohol (BAC) level was 0.493 and the circumstances surrounding his death are still under investigation.

Dartmouth College President Hanlon bans hard liquor

On January 29, 2015, Dartmouth’s President Philip Hanlon addressed the Dartmouth community and outlined his new plan “Moving Dartmouth Forward.” The changes include:

  • Hard liquor will be banned and penalties for being caught with hard liquor will be increased
  • Fraternities and sororities will not be allowed to have pledging activities
  • All students will be required to participate in a four-year sexual violence prevention program

The “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan will also be complimented with new communities. The Boston Globe offers:

In an apparent attempt to shift the college’s social scene away from Greek life, Dartmouth will also adopt a new housing model starting with next year’s incoming freshman class.

New students will be placed into one of six communities, akin to Harvard’s “houses,” each based around a cluster of dormitories. Each community will host and organize social and academic programs and will eventually have a dedicated space for studying and socializing.

From sophomore year on, students will remain a member of the community even if they move off campus or into a fraternity, sorority, or other housing run by a student group.

The New York Times’ The Learning Network asked an interesting question…

If you are not familiar with The Learning Network, then you can read all about it here. The idea is to organize materials about a current subject and provide students, parents and teachers the opportunity to start a conversation and to have free access to a new educational resource.

On January 21, 2015, The Learning Network posed the following: “Why is Binge Drinking So Common Among Young People in the United States?” The article begins with some basic facts, and then the students are asked to read an article by Beth McMurtrie “Why Colleges Haven’t Stopped Binge Drinking.” Finally students 13 and older are asked to submit a comment telling the other readers:

  • Why is binge drinking so common among young people in the United States? 
  • What should colleges and communities do to decrease the amount of binge drinking among young people? Should they do more to educate students about the dangers of alcohol? Should they be more strict in enforcing under-age drinking laws?
  • Or, does banning teenage drinking actually promote a culture of bingeing among young people? Do you agree with this Times reader, who writes in 2002, “Binge drinking among college students is much less of a problem in Europe, where alcohol is a part of the culture and part of a meal from a very early age. Perhaps if we focused more on teaching responsible drinking habits than on enacting and enforcing easily circumvented liquor laws, alcohol would be treated as a legitimate supplement to recreational events rather than a seductive forbidden fruit”? Why?
  •  Is binge drinking a problem among young people in your school or community? Explain. 

 If you have some time, stop by and read a few of the comments. As of this morning there were over 60 and you might be startled by what some of the students have to say. Many offer that ‘kids just binge drink to have fun.’ This definition of fun is something to grapple with.

Start a conversation, it’s never too late.

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