On the heels of the Harvard study, Time magazine calculated that "America's 12 million undergraduates drink 4 billion cans of beer a year, averaging 55 six-packs apiece." More ominous still were the widely publicized, alcohol-linked deaths of 18 college students in 1996 and 1997. This sobering figure included a Louisiana State University fraternity pledge who had been lightheartedly wheeled out of a bar in a shopping cart after consuming an estimated 24 drinks. He died of alcohol poisoning a few hours later.
      This past year at SU, a 19-year-old student nearly died after a night of drinking at a Marshall Street bar. The next morning, he was found in his room unconscious, with a blood-alcohol level of .46 percent—almost five times the legal limit for driving while intoxicated. "When I say that binge drinking is the most dangerous problem on our campus today, I do not exaggerate," Wells says. "These are life and death situations. Alcohol kills more than brain cells. It interferes with our sense of community. It undermines our mission and core values. We are doing everything in our power to deal with this dragon."
      In 1996, Syracuse University conducted a comprehensive student survey and established its binge drinking rate at 43 percent. The survey also revealed that the University's rate for marijuana use was 41 percent. A follow-up survey in 1999 showed the binge drinking rate at 49 percent, and marijuana use at 51 percent. The marijuana rates helped SU focus its prevention and intervention efforts on alcohol and other drugs. The importance of this inclusive focus was underscored in 1997, when an SU student fell to his death from a residence hall window. According to authorities, he was under the influence of drugs. "Some of my colleagues at other institutions collect data like this and hide it, because of the public relations problem," Wells says. "At Syracuse University, this issue is not taboo. This is powerful information. We see it as a tool for effecting change."
      Wells concedes that most American universities, including SU, have a history of benign neglect toward the issue of alcohol abuse. Until 1985 the legal drinking age in New York State was 18, and the University had little control over students' alcohol consumption. When the drinking age was raised to 21, SU tightened its alcohol policy, yet continued its laissez-faireapproach. "I don't remember any semblance of regulation," says alumna Dessa Bergen-Cico '86, G'88, G'92, director of the Substance Abuse Prevention and Health Enhancement (SAPHE) Office at SU. "There were rules on the books, but kegs in the dorms. The times were different, and nobody identified it as a problem."

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