Accuracy in Media

Parents of college students who think the primary danger to their sons and daughters is liberal brainwashing should take a hard look at a new study finding that 49 percent (3.8 million) of full-time college students binge drink and/or abuse prescription and illegal drugs. The typical college campus is beginning to look like Sodom and Gomorrah. 

The study, “Wasting the Best and the Brightest: Substance Abuse at America’s Colleges and Universities,” proves that the real “March Madness” is not the NCAA basketball tournament but college presidents and administrators who ignore the growing problem of students drinking heavily or abusing prescription and illegal drugs. Incredibly, the study says that over 1,700 students die from alcohol-related injuries every year. 

But it’s not just alcohol. Between 1993 and 2005, the study says, the number of students who use marijuana daily has more than doubled to approximately 310,000, and the number of students who use cocaine, heroin, and other illegal drugs (except marijuana) is up 52 percent to approximately 636,000.

The study was released by Joseph A. Califano, Jr., chairman of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, who charged that “College presidents, deans and trustees have facilitated a college culture of alcohol and drug abuse that is linked to poor student academic performance, depression, anxiety, suicide, property damage, vandalism, fights and a host of medical problems.”

He added, “By failing to become part of the solution, these Pontius Pilate presidents and parents, deans, trustees and alumni have become part of the problem. Their acceptance of a status quo of rampant alcohol and other drug abuse puts the best and the brightest—and the nation’s future—in harm’s way.”

Parents obviously have a responsibility here. But the problem is that, for many students, this is their first extended period away from home. Isolated, without friends and in new surroundings, they start to drink or do drugs. The liberalism that the students usually find in the classroom has become part of a lifestyle that is practically forced on them to survive. 

Parents, who are far away and kept in the dark, mistakenly think that college administrators are looking after their sons and daughters. The police, rather than enforce the drug laws and keep contraband off campus, are deployed to clear the parking lots of student cars on lucrative big-game football and basketball days. 

The shocking study was released on March 14 and covered by most of the major media. But like so many stories that don’t involve a missing person or Hollywood celebrity, this one was quickly dismissed or forgotten. 

Reflecting the decadence on campus, one college student newspaper, The Exponent of Purdue University, was so upset that it ran an editorial denouncing CNN for covering the report and having conducted an on-line poll that asked, “Do you believe the United States can retain its status as world leader in higher education when almost half of its college-age students are falling down drunk or stoned?” Incredibly, an amazing 11 percent of the respondents answered yes to the CNN poll, demonstrating that the problem is worse than we think.

The student paper said the question was “loaded” and had exposed the network’s “sensationalist reporting.” It asked, “Should we really trust a network that appears to think the fact that college students drink heavily is big news?” 

Most parents would answer with an emphatic yes. Indeed, the drinking problem is so bad that the CASA report reveals that students are now “learning” drinking games. One called “Beer Pong” involves throwing a ball into cups partially filled with beer and thereby getting your opponent to drink them. It is not part of the official college curriculum—not yet. 

One aspect of the scandal is that many colleges are surrounded by bars, clubs and restaurants which encourage drinking by underage students. One restaurant near a major campus “requires” that underage students get their hands stamped a certain way when they enter the establishment, as if to indicate they are underage and can’t drink. But the ink mark is water soluble and can be simply washed off. The students themselves know that the stamp is a joke. 

Local media and responsible campus newspapers should expose these practices and help put the establishments that engage in them out of business. 

Fortunately, some media are taking the problem seriously. The Lifetime cable channel is airing “The Party Never Stops,” an excellent film about underage and binge drinking on college campuses. Actress Sara Paxton plays Jesse Tanner, a freshman whose life starts going bad when she begins drinking at college. Jane Clifford of the San Diego Union-Tribune calls it a must-see movie and “a mirror that reflects an uncomfortable reality.”

Much more can and must be done. If our new Congress wants to engage in some worthwhile oversight of a major societal problem, substance abuse by college students is it. Like the Big Tobacco executives who were hauled before Congress and put under oath to tell the truth about their product, college and university presidents should be called to Washington and grilled as to why they look the other way as their “institutions of higher learning” turn America’s young people into deadheads.

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