Step it up, Chico State

The university must do more to curb binge drinking among students

The university did a smart thing by opening up the conversation about student alcohol abuse to the greater community back in February. Chicoans care deeply about the health of the community, and no one wants to see another tragic alcohol-overdose death. We’ve seen far too many already.

As we read in last week’s cover story, “A perfect storm,” by Mark Lore, Chico State has been grappling with the destructive culture of binge drinking for many decades. It led to Adrian Heideman’s death back in 2000, when the freshman fraternity pledge downed a bottle of blackberry brandy. And the members at the now-defunct Chi Tau fraternity were drunk when they orchestrated the rite that led to the water-intoxication death of Matthew Carrington in 2005.

Chico State adopted measures to prevent such instances from occurring again, such as making it mandatory for incoming freshmen to complete an online educational course. But eight years after Carrington’s death, based on current events, including four alcohol-related deaths last semester alone, the binge-drinking culture has only grown.

A cursory Internet search of the AlcoholEdu program Chico State employs describes it as a two-part online course that takes no longer than three hours to complete. Further searching on college message boards indicates that many students snooze their way through the educational portion, and simply look up the answers to pass the accompanying exam. To some, the course is a joke.

As noted by university health officials, 35 percent of incoming freshmen are binge drinkers. The national average is 25 percent. In other words, Chico State is attracting a great number of students who tend to drink heavily. That’s no joke.

Bottom line: The university needs to step up its efforts to curb this behavior. There are plenty of ideas on the table. Now is the time for follow through.