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UNC-CH Re-Surveys Binge Drinking

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CHAPEL HILL — A new report says drinking is on the rise atUNC-Chapel Hill.

New research conducted this fall by graduate students atUNC's School of Journalismuncovered a disturbing trend on the UNC campus.

At issue: new university policies designed to fight binge drinking. The result: drinking is on the rise.

How much alcohol consumed is too much? According to a 1994 study by Harvard University, binge drinking is defined as consuming five 12-ounce drinks for men, four for women, in one sitting during a two-week period.

The survey found 51 percent of undergraduate students at Carolina binge. It's a slight increase from the same study conducted in 1995. The increases are greater for men than women.

Graduate students wanted to find out how new university policies are affecting binge drinking.

"I was a high school athlete, and I never did drink until I came to college. And I didn't have a problem with it until my junior or senior year in a fraternity," says Ryan Oxendine, a UNC-CH graduate student. "That's when it got a little over the edge."

According to Carolina's new study, college fraternities and sororities lead the way in binge behavior. However, substance abuse experts say habits are established long before a college freshman steps on campus.

"Alcohol. We did not have it in the house," recalls UNC-CH student Christa Spry. "It was not there, but I did drink -- at my friend's house."

The report suggests the university's efforts failed to reach the Class of 1999.

The new survey found seniors, the students exposed to the campaign the longest, have the highest jump in the binge rate, to 63 percent, an increase of 21 points.

Excessive drinking can have terrible outcomes on college campuses.

In 1995, a UNC student died from a fall from a building after a night of drinking. OnMothers' Day 1996a fraternity house in Chapel Hill was gutted by fire after a party. Five students died. Investigators believe some were too intoxicated to exit the building.

Carolina isn't alone. Just three weeks ago,a North Carolina State University student was shotin a fracas following an off-campus keg party.

University officials say the School of Journalism survey doesn't show the whole picture. They say programs instituted in the past three years are working to help curb student drinking.

"We have made great efforts to provide alternatives and choices for students," says Health Services Director Matt Sullivan. Alternatives include booze-free dorms and alcohol-free parties and school-sponsored events.

A University of Illinois at Carbondale study conducted Fall 1997 shows students are learning Carolina's party image is more legend than fact.

"We expect to see perceptions and beliefs change first," says Sullivan, "followed by a behavior change."

The University is confident that, over time, students will learn to be more responsible when they do drink, as long as the school maintains its mission to educate them.

The health services director says roughly 30 percent of UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduates and graduate students don't drink at all -- a fact that rarely gets reported. However, the journalism school surveyed only undergraduates; their study found 15 percent don't binge. This Saturday, WRAL brings you a full discussion on the complexities surrounding binge drinking in a special program, "Journal."

Bill Leslie and Renee McCoy will bring you student views on binge drinking. And you'll hear what the experts say about the problem. You can watch "Journal," Saturday, December 12, 7:30 p.m., following WRAL's "30 Minutes."

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