Cumberland Times-News

January 29, 2013

Frostburg State President Jonathan Gibralter heading up national group to address college drinking

Angie Brant
Associated Press

— FROSTBURG — Frostburg State University President Jonathan Gibralter has been named co-chairman of a national organization dedicated to reducing the incidents of high-risk drinking among college students.

Gibralter, a member of the College Presidents Working Group on the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse since its inception in 2011, will now be serving as the co-chair of the group, alongside Robert Carothers, president emeritus of the University of Rhode Island.

“It is important that college and university presidents take a leadership role in describing the impact of high-risk drinking, just as we have a role to play in speaking out on any topic that affects the well-being of our students,” Gibralter said. “I’m proud that this appointment highlights the success that FSU has achieved through our broad-based and research-supported efforts.”

A comprehensive approach addressing the dangers of alcohol and drug-abuse seems to be making an impact on students and results of a recent Core Drug and Alcohol survey reinforce Gibralter’s belief that the university is making strides in keeping students safe and aware of the consequences of alcohol abuse. That survey was completed by 434 FSU undergraduate and graduate students in March 2012. The university administers the survey every three years.

According to Gibralter, the survey indicates a significant decline in high-risk drinking or what is commonly known as “binge drinking.” Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting. Survey results from 1997 indicated 59 percent of students reported binge drinking compared to 41 percent in 2012. The 2012 results are also lower than the national average of 43.1 percent.

Results also indicate the average number of drinks, per week, consumed by students has dropped from 9.5 in 1997 to 3.9 in 2012. According to the 2012 survey, 20 percent of FSU students reported that they do not drink at all.

“Our success can be attributed more to the fact that we have not relied on a single technique, but instead are taking a broad approach that involves people from all parts of our university community — staff members, students, faculty, community members, law enforcement, local business people. We have looked at many aspects of this issue, and we have adopted a wide range of programs, with new ideas being implemented when research points us in that direction. The ultimate goal is keeping students safe.”

The NIAAA was formed in 2011, with a goal to bring national attention to the college drinking issue, while exploring recommendations and policies that can be implemented on campuses across the country.

The number of college students impacted by alcohol abuse across the country is staggering. According to the NIAAA, 1,800 college students die each year of  alcohol-related causes and 600,000 are injured in incidents involving alcohol. The NIAAA reports that more than 100,000 students were too intoxicated to know whether they consented to sexual intercourse and an estimated 2.8 million students admit to driving under the influence.

Experts report that 696,000 students are assaulted by another student under the influence of alcohol and  97,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual as-sault or date rape nationally.

“It’s vitally most important that college and university presidents be aware that high risk drinking amongst college students is a national health hazard and that their involvement can make a difference,” Gibralter said.

“My hope is that the intervention strategies that our working group will present will better educate our colleagues and protect our students from unnecessary harm.”

Contact Angie Brant at abrant@ times-news.com.