Alcohol abuse is a common problem on college campuses throughout the United States. California State University, Chico is no exception.
The toll that alcohol abuse takes on college students and the surrounding community is seen not only in the lives lost to alcohol poisoning, but also the lives lost at the hands of those that are intoxicated. The university and community of Chico have been battling the image of alcohol abuse for years, but little gains can be made with such frequent loss of life.
The consequences of alcohol abuse are seen in the senseless deaths of Chico State students like Kristina Chesterman, Austin Silver and Bryant Mata-Adams.These are people that were not consuming alcohol, but were killed by someone that was. This takes the idea of drinking for being an individual act of irresponsibility to a life ending tragedy for an unrelated person.
The main problem in these senseless deaths was a person that abused alcohol and acted irresponsibly, but there are other elements that added to make the situation more dangerous. The street lighting in Chico, for example, could be improved. Walk down any of the city streets at night and you can see how even a sober driver could easily hit a bicyclist or pedestrian. While drinking may lie at the heart of the problem, it’s clear that other factors can greatly exacerbate a potentially unsafe situation.
In 2011, a study was performed across all of the California State University (CSU) schools to gain a better understanding of the culture of alcohol in the student community. Of the 23 CSU campuses, Chico State has the highest number of students with immediate relatives that have alcohol or drug abuse problems.
Chico State students feel that they are very unlikely to get in trouble with the police after drinking 3 or 4 drinks. Chico State Students drink more days per month than any other CSU student and on those days they drank more alcohol. These statistics paint a picture of a student body that has a possible familial predisposition to alcohol abuse, does not fear punishment, and sees drinking as the norm.
Chico State has developed a number of organizations and resources for students to help them identify and address alcohol abuse, including R.A.D.A.R. (Raising Awareness About Drug & Alcohol Responsibilities) and B.A.S.I.C.S. (Brief Alcohol Screening & Intervention for College Students Program), to name a few. These organizations hold meetings on campus and many have open door policies to all students as a safe place to express their concerns or personal difficulties with alcohol consumption. Not all of these organizations are new, which brings up the concern if they are doing enough and if they are doing it in the right way to reach students.
In an effort to deter drinking and parties in the Chico area, an ordinance was recently passed that placed the responsibility of underaged drinking on the property owner, not the renter. This approach is bound to bring criticism as property owners are not always living at the property or even within the Chico area. The effect of this ordinance can also be questionable when considering how it may impact college students’ living situations in the Chico community. Property owners may hesitate to allow underage students to rent from them, with the assumption that these students may host several parties in which alcohol would be present. Those students who are not able to live in the dorms on campus could encounter much difficulty in finding a place to live while they go to school. Though the intention of this social-host ordinance is to help control underage drinking and subsequent violence and deaths, much consideration needs to be placed on the effect that it could have on underage college students’ ability to attain appropriate housing and the property owners that are not directly involved with a party.
It is clear that there is a long standing issue with alcohol abuse and alcohol related deaths in the north state, especially around college campuses. There needs to be drastic change–and soon. It takes more than the community to want change, the students need to want it as well. For each student that needlessly dies due to their or someone else’s alcohol consumption, there was someone that wasn’t reached or educated about the risks their actions hold.
Please share with us your ideas on how you would help the students of Chico State and other communities beat the culture of alcohol.
Philip Polansky is a fifth semester nursing student at California State University, Chico. He circumnavigated the globe while working on medical missions in Africa and India in 2013. Philip has a previous Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He has worked at Google, an art gallery in the Czech Republic, and as a personal assistant for an actor in Hollywood.
Danielle Powner is also a fifth semester student nurse at CSU, Chico. Though she currently resides in Chico, her true home is Redding. Danielle’s dream is to work as a medical/surgical or orthopedic nurse, and to use the healing power of laughter and kindness to guide the care of her patients.