Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Alcohol Survey Results Show GU is Average

Charles Nailen/The Hoya Vice President for Student Affairs, Juan Gonzalez ponders recent Georgetown alcohol surveys. According to a survey released by university administrators yesterday, Georgetown is just below the national average for drinking.

The survey, completed by over 4,923 undergraduate students, or 75.2 percent of the student body, during pre-registration last fall, showed nearly 96 percent of students indicated that drinking was a significant element of social life at Georgetown. Sixty-one percent approved of the statement “Occasionally getting drunk is okay as long as it doesn’t interfere with academic or other responsibilities.”

The results of the survey come as Georgetown is reexamining its policies concerning enforcement of alcohol regulations, and as the etropolitan Police Department steps up its effort to fight underage drinking at local bars.

The findings of the survey are consistent with recent surveys at Harvard University in 1999 and at George Mason University in 1997. The studies at Harvard and Georgetown found that binge drinking occurs in about 44 percent of the college population at least once a month on both campuses, according to Georgetown Center for Personal Development head Dr. Patrick Kilcarr.

“Many people think that everyone at Georgetown drinks and everyone drinks excessively, and that’s absolutely not the case,” Kilcarr said.

Nearly 20 percent of Georgetown students indicated that they do not consume alcohol.

“That’s a huge portion of our students, and they’re usually under-represented,” he said.

The survey indicated that 74 percent of students rated themselves as light to moderate drinkers.

“If you’re looking at 74 percent of students drinking and not harming self or others, drinking is not the issue,” Kilcarr said. “It’s the people who choose to drink excessively that are causing the greatest deal of problems.”

Six percent of students rated themselves as heavy drinkers, according to the survey.

“I’ve been saying for months that I believe six or seven percent of our students were the heavy drinkers, and that’s who everyone always complains about and that most of the community pays attention to,” Vice President for Student Affairs Juan C. Gonzalez said. “We at least now know.”

Even though students were rating themselves, the results are still indicative of Georgetown’s actual drinking culture, Kilcarr said.

“If you go out and you drink weekly and you’re getting drunk and you’re waking up with a hangover, regardless of what survey your taking you’re not going to say you’re a moderate to light drinker; You’re just not going to do it,” Kilcarr said. “If I were intimidated by that question I’d just leave it blank.”

The survey found that of the 80 percent who reported drinking, 49 percent said they consume one to six alcoholic drinks per week, and only 13 percent put their average at 15 or more per week.

The survey, Gonzalez said, “does indicate that students drink. Is that the permeating character of the culture? I think not.”

Of those who reported drinking often or occasionally, 57 percent reporting they had had hangovers. Twenty-six percent said they did something they regretted while drunk, 24 percent said they bragged about being drunk and 23 percent said they could not remember certain things after drinking excessively.

More importantly, according to Kilcarr, the consequence students fear the most, at 36 percent, is arrest. 32 percent of students said negative physical effects were their most perceived risk.

Both Kilcarr and Gonzalez said they were impressed with over 90 percent of students saying that if confronted with the situation they would either keep an eye on a friend, walk home someone who was drunk, prevent someone from driving after drinking, eat a meal or snack or tell a friend to stop drinking.

Programming, according to Kilcarr, is an important component of the solution to drinking problems at Georgetown, but the university’s past attempts have not been very successful.

“We’ve tried to take the most promising programs from out in the community as it regards alcohol and drug use and apply them to our students,” he said. “Even with that, though, the amount of the excessive drinking continues at roughly the same level.”

Kilcarr also said the survey results have made the university reconsider many factors with programming.

“We had to step back and say, `What are we not doing?'” he said.

On-campus activities, he also said, are not a complete solution to the problems.

“Programming doesn’t prevent students from drinking or drinking heavily,” Kilcarr said.

Gonzalez, though, said he wished to appeal to students to find solutions to this issue.

“The administration can’t do it alone,” he said.

He suggested focus groups and discussion as the keys to interpreting the data and solving any problems that exist.

“This is going to spur a broad level discussion and I think that’s OK and it’s welcome,” he said.

The release of the data and the conducting of the survey, Gonzalez said does not signify any belief that the university has a crisis at hand.

“I hope it signals that the institution really, truly wants to understand with some level-headed decisions what the students are thinking,” he added.

In the future both Kilcarr and Gonzalez said they see the need to monitor what is changing at Georgetown and the effects of the new programs and issues. According to Gonzalez, though, the survey should not be done every year. He suggested a minimum of a three year interval, but was not sure whether the survey would be regularly re-run.

“The purpose of this is really not so much to begin creating all kinds of anti-drinking campaigns at this university but to create a feeling of safety,” Kilcarr said.

Neither see the Georgetown culture as a culture of alcohol, but stressed that punishments are becoming much harsher for underage drinking.

“It’s becoming more punitive. And I predict it’s going to triple,” Kilcarr said. “Is it because Georgetown is telling MPD you’ve got to do something about this? No. It’s because of what is going on within the community.”

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