Alcohol violations by students plunged 79 percent this fall from last fall, and alcohol-related hospital runs dropped 35 percent as well, according to the Boston University Police Department.
Violations numbered 38 last fall as opposed to just 8 this year, while comparable figures for hospital runs were 120 and 78. Amid lingering student objections that BU’s two-year-old alcohol enforcement plan is a waste of resources, BUPD and campus medical officials are hopeful that the enforcement regimen is showing results.
“We would like to believe there’s an association between the two—the efforts and the decreases,” says David McBride, director of Student Health Services. But stating a more definitive link, he says, would require several years of data and an analysis of whether other universities are having similar decreases in alcohol problems.
BUPD Captain Robert Molloy says that besides police enforcement, information distributed to students about alcohol laws, penalties for violation, and the dangers of alcohol abuse may be fueling the declining numbers.
One objection to the enforcement plan has been the fear that it would merely drive dangerous drinking farther away to less patrolled neighborhoods, says McBride. But there have been no reports of heightened partying and violations elsewhere, he adds. “It’s not displacing the activity to other places, unless kids are going to Cambridge or JP or Somerville.”
Last fall, after the enforcement effort’s first semester, rowdy partying declined in nearby neighborhoods, but there was little or no effect on decreasing hospital transports. Indeed, President Robert A. Brown made a point of informing students and parents in a summer email that 200-plus students, mostly freshmen, went to the hospital for acute intoxication during the 2011–2012 academic year.
This year’s improved results make McBride “cautiously optimistic” that BU has found an effective strategy to combat alcohol abuse.
“We anticipate the enforcement plan will continue in the upcoming spring and fall semesters,” says Molloy. The plan, modeled on successful efforts at the University of California, involves increased patrols of party neighborhoods by University, Boston, and Brookline police departments, dispersing loud parties, and citing or arresting violators of alcohol laws. The enforcement statistics have been published for each of the last two fall semesters by BU Today.
The “sharing of information and coordinating strategies” among the three police departments has been crucial to the enforcement’s success, says Molloy. Since the plan’s inception, the local departments reported appreciation from residents of nearby neighborhoods that their lives and sleep were less troubled by raucous student parties.
Some BU parents have endorsed the police efforts as well. They may have been moved in part by Brown’s email last summer that noted not just the impairment of judgment of drunkenness, but its role in making drinkers more susceptible to sexual assault. This fall, BU opened a Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center (SARP) at the urging of students and others concerned about the need for such a resource.
Besides alcohol, arrests or citations for illicit drug use (mostly marijuana) declined this fall as well, by 54 percent, Molloy says.
Graphic by Dakota Chichester29 Comments