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Editorial: Universities making strides on drinking

Students began classes Monday at Washington State University, but alcohol over-consumption got the jump on Chemistry 101.

During the weekend, according to Pullman Police reports, two individuals were drunk enough to require transport to Pullman Regional Hospital. Another was poured into a taxi. Yet another was merely “unwell.”

Police could not locate an intoxicated individual reportedly crouching in the bushes and jumping out at cars. Must have caught one.

Campus police were also active, issuing citations for minors in possession, and one for operating a vehicle without an ignition interlock. There were also several notations regarding marijuana use.

This is not to pick on WSU. In fact, redoubled efforts by campus officials to suppress alcohol abuse are entirely praiseworthy, as are those at neighbor University of Idaho. They, like universities all over the country, are becoming more proactive.

In the last few years, intoxicated students have been injured or killed falling off balconies, from hypothermia or, last week at Western Washington University, an accidental, self-inflicted shooting.

Incidents of student and faculty injuries and death are heartbreaking and intolerable, but nobody should deceive themselves that institutional rule-making can offset poor individual decision-making. The best universities can do is create environments and provide supports that can deflect dangerous behavior.

A task force convened by WSU President Elson Floyd made several recommendations last week that will help, starting with a stiffer “Booze, Sex and Reality” class that is mandatory for all freshmen – the most vulnerable population. More dormitory floors will be no-alcohol, which would reduce peer pressure to drink, as would barring freshmen from living in fraternities.

There’s also the common-sense call to parents the first time their pride and joy violates campus alcohol rules.

The Faculty Senate will be asked for more Friday morning classes. That’s a good idea even if the motivation here is to discourage Thursday night parties.

All those proposals will go to Floyd and the university board of regents for action.

In the meantime, the university will also be introducing a “Red Watch Band” program for students who will be trained to identify potential alcohol overdoses.

A required University of Idaho session will also encourage bystander intervention. Additional officers will be hired to enforce the expanded rules.

Giving students the sensitivity and skills to act when a friend or anyone else has lost self-control is all-important. When a situation requires summoning police or an ambulance, it may be too late.

WSU task force leader Dr. Bruce Wright calls it “Cougs looking out for Cougs.” Add Vandals for Vandals, Eagles for Eagles, and so on throughout the universe of area campuses.

It’s peer pressure, in the best sense.

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