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Health & Wellness

New Alcohol Enforcement Effort to Continue

Still too many hospital runs, but quieter weekends applauded


BU’s fall crackdown on alcohol abuse has gotten raves from residents of neighborhoods that have seen raucous partying decline as the semester unfurled. But too many dangerously drunk students—eight on average—were still rushed to the hospital on weekends, say medical officials and University, Boston, and Brookline police.

The bottom line? Continued enforcement in the spring semester, albeit with fewer officers, according to the cops.

BU’s initiative, combining beefed-up enforcement with weekly publication of statistics on numbers of hospital transports, citations, busted parties, and the like, was based on a similar enforcement plan developed at the University of California. UC reported reduced numbers of students getting drunk off campus due to the enforcement.

Asked if he’d pronounce the enforcement experiment a success, David McBride, director of Student Health Services, says, “I would say that enforcement historically has been one of BU’s strongest and most effective interventions in addressing this problem. I think we have a lot more work to do in prevention. As a gestalt, I would say I’m pleased with the outcome.” For now, McBride plans to gather data tracking any changes in student drinking behavior as the year progresses. Some of the collection is part of BU’s participation in the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking, a collaboration of colleges trying to curtail binge drinking. He is also pondering more effective communication with students about alcohol before they arrive on campus next September.

Enforcement alone won’t markedly drive down transport numbers, says McBride, “but I think if we decrease the likelihood that people are going to be throwing big keg parties with buckets full of jungle juice…maybe down the road, those dangerous transports will go down.” Along those lines, Boston police prosecuted more than 100 students and others this fall for illegally procuring or supplying alcohol, “much more than we did last year,” says Capt. James Hussey of the Boston PD. The collaborating police departments also broke up 40 parties during the 10 weekends of the enforcement, some with up to 200 attendees.

Brookline Police Lt. Philip Harrington says there was praise for the police efforts at an October community meeting in that town. “The complaints aren’t so much of the parties as the street noise,” he says, “so most of our focus this year was really dealing with the kids coming out on the street” and citing them for nuisance violations.

“We are not coming to an end” of the enforcement, Hussey vows. “We will continue to be vigilant out there through the rest of this semester, and when the next semester starts, we will be back out into…Brighton and Allston. We will continue to monitor those areas, seeking those people who are drinking underage and those people having parties and providing alcohol for minors.” As the school year launched, the enforcement plan hit hard to set a tone, he says, in hopes of encouraging the typical mellowing of student partying later in the year, when young drinkers have learned their tolerance and cold weather keeps the windows closed on parties.

Strong enforcement, ironically, may have contributed to the large numbers of hospital transports as police rounded up more drunk students, says McBride. Those students are sometimes “alarmingly intoxicated,” he says.

Armstrong Ambulance EMT Natalie Finn, who has attended drunken students, says their behavior “might not indicate how drunk they actually are,” but their blood alcohol content can be two or three times the legal limit. In most cases, she says, “these kids are under 21,” the legal drinking age in Massachusetts.

“They can be pleasant, talkative, and just all of a sudden they vomit everywhere, they don’t know where they are,” Finn says. “From the party environment to the hospital…they do change rather quickly.”

The 2010–2011 academic year saw 250 students taken to the hospital for acute intoxication, and this year may roughly replicate that, says Capt. Robert Molloy of the BU Police Department. Authorities ran 81 hospital trips for intoxicated students in the 10 weekends from September 9 to 11 through November 10 to 13. On the plus side, Molloy says, “the amount of activity in the West Campus area and the South Campus area, with kids carrying alcohol and walking into the dorms with alcohol—we’ve seen less of that as we get later into the semester. In September, it was pretty bad.”

The crackdown and weekly publication of its results on BU Today prompted online outrage from some students, with many saying the University was wasting money interfering with their lives. “Is this where the $50,000 goes that I watch my parents struggle to pay every year?” groused one. McBride terms that type of response “expected.” But it wasn’t just residents near the University who were thankful for more peace in their neighborhoods—Molloy notes that some parents commented online about their appreciation for the enforcement.

Indeed, some of the lowest alcohol abuse of the semester was reported on Parents Weekend.

Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

13 Comments on New Alcohol Enforcement Effort to Continue

  • Lew Bryson on 12.05.2011 at 8:47 am

    Glad to see this is working. I’m all in favor of moderate drinking — I know the spots around BU campus where I can find a nice glass of session-type lower-alcohol beer — but as a BU parent, I DO think that this is a useful spend of “the $50,000” we struggle to pay every year. If you’re drunk enough to need a hospital run…you’re doing it wrong.

  • willls on 12.05.2011 at 11:16 am

    buncha liberals tryna tell me how to live my life. if my son wants to get drunk who’s to stop him. i pay 500000 dollars a year for him to go here.

  • Parent 2015 on 12.05.2011 at 2:23 pm


    Did you read the section in the “comment guidelines” about impersonation? Anyway, if you don’t wish to have anyone tell you how to live your life why don’t you fork over or borrow the $50,000 yourself? If your “dad” is paying $50,000/year and isn’t concerned with your drunken behavior, then you’re both fools. (My apologies for violating the same guideline).

    More on point, I agree with the enforcement and believe it benefits the university and the communities with which it must co-exist. However, based on anecdotal stories more enforcement of RAs lack of enforcement is needed.

  • S, Class of 2014 on 12.05.2011 at 2:54 pm

    The fact of the matter is that some of the students who are transported to the hospital are not intoxicated enough to warrant any medical attention. The police and security guards arbitrarily pick students from a crowd (especially at Warren Towers) and send them to the hospital. I agree that very drunk students need medical attention, but the issue is that these students are often not the ones who are being sent to the hospital.

    • ASH on 12.06.2011 at 1:45 am

      This as a matter of fact as happened to me. When I got to the hospital the physician even asked me why I was there. I had been forced to get into an ambulance by BU ResLife. While it is important for students to be careful and for people to make sure that someone does not have alcohol intoxication, it is ridiculous that just having a silly time with your friends (which apparently can make you look more intoxicated) can result in a ride to the hospital.

      • Nathan on 12.06.2011 at 10:36 am

        Sorry ASH. as in actually sorry that happened to you.

        BU Police should do a breathalizer or some other Blood Alcohol Test before ordering up a hospital transport. If you allow people to be arbitrary – they will be arbitrary.

        In the case of BU ResLife, as opposed to certified medical or police staff, I would ask them to get a medical recommendation from the ambulance staff before I would allow them to transport me – but I’m not a student, I don’t know the full legal authority / university policy issues here.

  • Anonymous on 12.06.2011 at 9:01 am

    Indeed, some of the lowest alcohol abuse of the semester was reported on Parents Weekend

    Who wouldn’t expect that no matter the enforcement laws? Parent presence is the ultimate reducer in drinking as students go to dinner with their parents.

    As a message to parents: Your students are living on their own now and may never return home. Strict enforcement will NOT leave them with the life coping mechanisms they need. They need to learn to regulate themselves. All this enforcement does is force us students to hide it better. Trust me when I say there isn’t any less drinking going on. The long term solution is to normalize the problem. I don’t want to binge drink, but when the only opportunity to drink comes from parties and not routine social gatherings what do you think becomes hardwired into students brains?

    But hey, I guess you can say you and BU tried when your kids develop serious problems down the line right?

  • Anonymous on 12.06.2011 at 9:04 am

    Lew I would like to point to your point in particular. Where can a student go to enjoy a nice glass a beer? Not all of us are American. In my home country its acceptable to have a drink or two recreationally. That is it, a drink or two.

    What are your options at BU? Go to a party or go to an apartment. There is zero moderation because it is illegal either way, so students feel that they may as well get trashed.

  • Class of 2013 Student on 12.06.2011 at 9:08 am

    “However, based on anecdotal stories more enforcement of RAs lack of enforcement is needed.”

    Parents 2015, let me be honest with you, this will only cause me to have to find somewhere else to sleep then my dorm. Enforcement is already overly vigorous that it sends students unnecessarily to the hospital, not to mention that RAs are often under 21 themselves.

    But hey, if you want your daughter to have to find a Fraternity house to sleep at for the night to avoid RAs sending her to the hospital for only having a drink or two just say so. I’m sure that she’d appreciate it.

  • Anonymous on 12.09.2011 at 8:53 am

    All BU drug and alcohol enforcement is a joke. If you’re gonna have security guards and RAs deciding who is and is not drunk, then I want to see some credentials. Last time I checked, the titles “RA” and “Security Guard” didn’t make you an expert on when people need hospitalization.
    Just saying, if Bu wants sending kids to the hospital to be their policy, than I want to see someone who is trained in the medical field making these decisions. Not 50 year old high school dropouts whos only job is to watch you swipe your id.

  • Donna s. on 12.10.2011 at 12:51 pm

    Ya know say what you’d like about the enforcements, but don’t drag the security guards into the conversation with comments like the previous post states (anonymous). That’s down right mean and really not fair.
    Everyone’s commenting on how people shouldn’t have been brought to the hospital. What happens when medical care is needed and there’s nobody to help, what are you going to say then ?
    Life is to short.

  • Mike on 12.12.2011 at 2:36 pm

    BU will never change the drinking habits of any college student. The students who want to drink and party will continue to do so. These students are now better off sleeping out at apartments and fraternity houses, then going home and risk getting in trouble with an RA. So, parents of income freshman I hope you like knowing that part of your 50,000 is being completely wasted because some guy at BU has a job and needs to spend money doing his job, even though it is worthless. And be happy knowing that your kids are more likely to be sleeping out with other people, instead of going home to their own beds (where they may rather be)

    Also, students are likely to drink a lot less at the big parties because when you take a few kegs and divide that up among 200 people then that will be 2-3 beers a person. This is a lot more controlled than 4 students drinking a handle of liquor in their dorm room because they do not have a party to go to.

    As a student, I can vouch for everything I have said. Drinking habits have not changed, and people sleep out more to prevent getting in trouble. The only thing that has changed is the “party” setting. Instead of going to big parties, people get together in smaller groups and drink. And I would say, definitely drink a lot more than they ever did at big parties.

    BU you are just hurting yourself. You should look out for us, not try to control us. Its not going to work

    • Anonymous on 12.04.2012 at 10:39 am

      BU please listen up. As the above comments suggested, STUDENTS ARE NOT DRINKING LESS. If you look at your own stats, it says that alcohol violations went down a whopping 74%, but hospitalizations only went down around 34% or so. Reason being that people are just getting better at not getting caught. When kids do get a chance, they are going to drink as much as they can because they know that they can’t just go to a party and have a few beers anymore. If rules weren’t so strict, then kids would not have to resort to binge drinking whenever they get the opportunity.

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