The Daily Gamecock

Anti-alcohol efforts show brief impact

On-campus incidents drop, hospitalized students rise in 2011

While USC’s director of Student Conduct says the suspension of fraternity recruitment earlier this semester and other drastic attempts to sober up the university’s alcoholic culture have been successful, the changes may be fleeting and the future situation bleak.

Alisa Cooney, director of Student Conduct, reported that her office has seen a slight decrease in the number of alcohol-related offenses this year in spite of the increased size of the freshman class — a change she attributed partly to the suspension of fraternity rush this year. Student Conduct saw half as many incidents after rush was halted than it did during that period last year, she said.

That change may be short-lived, however, as preliminary CORE survey data for this year has held mostly constant with results from 2009 and 2010, said Maggie Leitch, coordinator for substance abuse prevention and education.

What has changed is the number of incidents requiring EMT response, which Cooney said has increased dramatically. Cooney also remarked that she was thankful for students and others who have alerted authorities of students in harm’s way.

“I firmly believe that those bystanders are the key reason why we have not had students with alcohol overdoses that result in permanent brain damage or death,” Cooney said.

Speaking with The Daily Gamecock, Leitch and Anna Edwards, director of student services, noted a number of efforts to combat alcohol abuse, including the establishment of the Carolina Community Coalition, revisions to the University’s alcohol policies last December and the requirement of incoming freshmen to pass an online AlcoholEdu course.

Notable among these efforts is their emphasis on encouraging safer drinking practices, not an outright crackdown on underage drinking.

AlcoholEdu repeatedly teaches users how to avoid and mitigate high-risk drinking situations and how to drink responsibly.

Additionally, the stated mission of the Carolina Community Coalition is “to create a campus-community that is less conducive to high-risk behaviors and situations,” according to the group’s website.

“We definitely come from a mentality that if you are going to drink, it’s your choice,” Leitch said. “We’re going to let you know what the consequences are, but we want you to do it — if you are going to do it — in a low-risk way.”

Part of this evident standstill is the long history and apparent staying power of the campus’s culture, because, noted Edwards, USC is an SEC school with strong support for its athletic teams and with a number of long-standing traditions, including combining drinking and sporting events. Many of these traditions are passed down from parents to their children.

“Culture doesn’t happen and doesn’t change in a semester,” Edwards said.

Alternatives to drinking on campus, however, appeared relatively sparse.

A heavy majority of Carolina Productions events, especially its marquee events — including national acts, concerts and the Battle of the Bands — occur on weeknights.

Though the group screens popular films on weekend nights, the last screening begins at 9 p.m.

On weekends — generally about one each month — The Office of Student Life also hosts Carolina After Dark events, including a pancake dinner after the game against Navy and a bowling night next month.

Officials from Carolina Productions and Carolina After Dark were unavailable to comment after multiple attempts to contact their offices.

Elsewhere on campus, recreation facilities, such as the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center and the Golden Spur Game Room, close relatively early on weekend nights.

Strom Thurmond closes at 11 p.m. on Saturday nights, as opposed to midnight during the week, and the Golden Spur closes at 10 p.m. throughout the week, including the weekends.