DUI: DU under the influence

"Alcohol is a dangerous drug but I drink it anyway," says Collins.

Underage drinking is almost guaranteed to occur on any college campus, but rules are usually put in place and enforced to discourage this behavior. So why do students keep doing it?

“It’s just kind of a social thing,” says Ben Peterson*, a freshman at the University of Denver.

“I drink because other people drink,” adds friend Kevin Collins*, also a freshman.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are estimated to be 10.8 million underage drinkers in the United States. Students that are the most likely to drink usually tend to be Caucasian, male, athletes, members of Greek life on campus, or first-year students.

What not to DU

According to the DU Code of Conduct, alcohol misuse is identified as “possession, use, manufacture, or distribution of alcohol except as expressly permitted by law or university policy. Alcoholic beverages may not be used by, possessed by, or distributed to any person under 21 years of age.” Consequences can include suspension, written assignments and alcohol education classes.

“I think that our students understand that underage drinking is against the law, and our policies so in that case are very effective,” says Carl Johnson, director of Campus activities at DU.

Underage students think the policy is strong, especially when it comes to reinforcement.

“I feel like the [alcohol] policy is enforced,” says Collins. “Since I got in trouble here, I drink a lot less than I did before.”

“[The consequences] obviously make you more cautious,” says freshman Nick Zimmerman*.

In spite of this, underage students have devised ways to get around the rules. One common trick is to lay low during quiet hours.

“We shut off music at night after 10 p.m., during ‘dangerous’ times,” says Zimmerman.

Neilson recalls a time when this ‘protocol’ wasn’t followed; campus police entered their room because of all the noise they were making.

“My roommate was playing music very loudly and the RAs came to see what was going on. Campus police searched our room and found some alcohol, so they poured it out.”

Underage drinking: a how-to guide

College students have a reputation for going out and partying, but they don’t necessarily have to leave campus to get drunk.

“I don’t drink that much but when I do drink, it’s usually in the dorms,” says Collins.

The most common way to for underage students to get alcohol is to have someone buy it for them, or to use a fake ID.

“It was pretty easy to get [a fake ID],” says Peterson, who got his as part of a group deal. “It was just a little pricey; it ended up being $90.”

Obtaining the alcohol itself is also relatively simple; all you need is a ride.

According to CBS News, students who live in dorms are more likely to drink alcohol.

“I have a harder time getting groceries,” quips Zimmerman.

When it comes to the beverage of choice, Collins and Peterson say they usually drink beer more than anything else.

“I usually drink light beer because heavy beer fills you up too quickly,” says Peterson. “I drank so much stuff in high school, I try to stay away from liquor because it gives you a hangover that’s infinitely worse.”

Underage students admit that drinking has negatively impacted their academic performance. Twenty-five percent of college students reported problems academically that included low grades, poor test scores and missing class.

“You’re hung-over more than anything,” says Peterson. “If you go [to class] hung-over, you might as well just not go.”

One-third of freshmen don’t make it back for their sophomore year due to their drinking habits.

Having fun without alcohol

Underage students may decide to drink, but DU offers plenty of non-alcoholic activities for students to participate in.

For example, DUPB offers free films every week, usually with free popcorn, too. Other alternatives to drinking include Late Night @ DU, whose mission is to “to provide DU’s diverse student body with alternative opportunities to alcohol-related activities on campus during late night and weekend hours.”

Marin Klostermeier is a freshman who makes an effort not to participate in alcohol-related activities.

“I think how drinking inhibits one’s ability to make decisions can have a lot of bad consequences on someone’s life,” says Klostermeier. “Being aware of the decisions you’re making is very important.”

The Director of Campus Activities hopes more students make the same kind of choice.

“I would hope that students choose not to drink alcohol based on their personal convictions, not our policies,” says Johnson.

The legality of liquor

Alcohol consumption may be illegal for anyone under 21, but underage students don’t seem to be fazed by this.

“It’s such a minor thing,” says Collins. “I worry more about the legality of marijuana.”

Peterson acknowledged the dangers of alcohol and proposed a solution to solve underage drinking.

“I think it’s kind of hard to deny it’s not dangerous, which is why the obvious solution would be to make alcohol more difficult to get.”

Zimmerman came up with a different answer: the drinking age could be lowered, but only over a period of time.

“If you lowered it right now, there are a bunch of people between 18 and 21 that would get s**tfaced.”

If students under the age of 21 do decide to drink, there are several things they can do to reduce the risk of alcohol poisoning:

  • Eat before and during drinking
  • Avoid mixing different types of alcohol with drugs
  • Appoint a designated driver, or choose a safe method of transportation
  • Avoid drinking games
  • Mind your own drink
  • Drink only if you want to

*These names have been changed for privacy purposes

2 Responses to DUI: DU under the influence

  • Ariana Hernandez
    Ariana Hernandez says:

    I thought your story was really interesting. It flows nicely, with the order you put the story in. I like how you had the consequences of underage drinking and the interviews but then have alternatives to drinking and advice for those who are 21, it fit well.

  • Michael Ferrero
    Michael Ferrero says:

    The statistics that you used in your story were very interesting. Additionally, I thought the quotes were very relevant, and gave the perspective of multiple students. I liked that there were many facets to the story, and I was impressed to see statistics from prestigious sources, such as CBS.

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