The following piece, written by the opinion editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
This issue, The Miami Student published a special section on the drinking culture at Miami University, ranging from an analysis of the numbers behind drinking at Miami to a column from the Butler County Coroner who had the task of investigating the death of a Miami student due to alcohol consumption at the beginning of this semester.
As most members of the Oxford community know, the issue of alcohol abuse has been the talk of the town this semester, especially following the death of first-year Erica Buschick, numerous student hospitalizations from drinking and the amped-up police presence in Oxford on Green Beer Day.
Right now, we are experiencing a brief lull in the frequency of alcohol-related incidents. In the past, this is when media coverage of Miami’s drinking problem has stopped — ours included.
It is a mistake to believe that the dust has settled, that because there hasn’t been a glaring accident in the past month, the problem has gone away.
Miami’s alcohol abuse is chronic.
As reported in this issue, Rose Marie Ward, professor of kinesiology and health at Miami, cited in her interview a Harvard College alcohol survey, which found that, nationally, 42 percent of college students admitted to binge-drinking in the 30 days prior to being surveyed. At Miami, the statistic was closer to 60 percent. In another survey, over a quarter of Miami students polled admitted to binge-drinking three or more times in the past two weeks, compared to 14 percent of college students nationally.
These figures show that drinking attitudes at Miami are not normal. Those who believe that ‘this is just the way it is’ are contributing to the legitimization of an unsustainable, destructive culture. It is far too easy for members of the Miami community to avoid looking in the mirror when such excuses arise.
Miami may not be the worst school out there, and yes, elements of the drinking culture here are present at other similar schools in the region and the country. But when the discussion is reduced to a ranking of schools instead of a comprehensive look at what is going on here and what the consequences of extensive alcohol abuse are, it distorts the public’s view of what the real issue is and should be: the safety and health, long-term and short-term, of our students.
Even if Miami were at the national average, this issue would continue to demand our attention; the fact that Miami students are significantly above the national average for binge-drinking rates makes it that much more pressing.
This issue not only demands the attention of all students but of media organizations in the area, including this one, that have a tendency to only scratch the surface of this issue or only cover the symptoms and not the cause. The administration must also be willing to routinely make alcohol abuse and binge-drinking a priority to tackle.
In a previous editorial this semester, the staff put the responsibility of controlling drinking issues on the students that are putting themselves and others at risk with their behavior. This message is still true, but it is one that has the potential to be forgotten unless those that have the power to speak up in a meaningful manner do so regularly and with serious intent.
Without regular confrontation of the problems at hand, nothing about this situation will change. Looking away from this issue when the circumstances afford it may be the comfortable route but, in the long-run, averting our eyes will prolong the deadly cycle we are currently entrenched in.