Cumberland Times-News

September 3, 2013

Making strides

Gibralter, FSU cutting high-risk drinking


Cumberland Times-News

— Frostburg State University President Jonathan Gibralter is continuing to tout his school’s success in reducing incidents of high-risk drinking among its students. The latest exposure came Sunday when The Washington Post Sunday magazine detailed how the effort is paying off.

Gibralter, who earlier this year was named co-chairman of a national organization dedicated to fighting high-risk drinking by students, told the Post magazine he is confident his effort is making strides. The number of FSU students who binge drink has fallen from 54 percent in 2006 to 41 percent last year.

The main reason for FSU’s success appears to be its community-wide approach to the problem. Staff members, students, faculty, community members, law enforcement and local business people all are working together.

The university is backing up the campaign through a zero-tolerance stance. A first offense results in alcohol education over and above the education students receive during orientation. A violation  also a letter to the student’s parents. It is the letter which seems to grab both the student’s and parents’ attention.

Another enhancement has been the university’s willingness to pay for an additional police officer to help deal with student drinking. Once a month, Frostburg officials meet with police and representatives from bar and liquor stores to keep communication open.

A number of national media outlets have reported on FSU’s approach to stemming high-risk drinking. Additionally, Gibralter delivers his message as co-chairman of the College Presidents Working Group on the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse. The other co-chairman is Robert Carothers, president emeritus of the University of Rhode Island.

Gibralter told the Post magazine that he knows the job of reducing high-risk drinking is an ongoing effort and things can still go wrong. “We’re only as good as our last weekend. I never go to bed thinking, ‘Thank goodness. We finally solved the problem.’” he said.

The comprehensive approach at FSU seems to be the best model available. For many other colleges and universities fighting the same battle, the Frostburg strategy may be what works best for them.