Student drinking reduced

By Ellen Skelly

A nationwide trend toward drinking less alcohol by college-aged students is being reflected at NIU.

The American Council on Education Cooperative Institution Research Program Survey was given to more than 215,000 incoming public college freshmen across the nation.

Results from the nationwide survey, also taken by over 3,000 NIU freshmen in 1988 and 1989, showed about a 3 percent decrease of freshmen who reported using alcoholic beverages.

The decrease was probably “related to the country’s awakening awareness of the problems of overindulgence,” said NIU Testing Services Director Norman Gilbert.

Jenny Glickstein, a NIU sophomore English major, said alcohol use among freshmen is probably higher than older college students because it is their first time having easy access to alcohol away from home.

The 1989 survey reported 64 percent of NIU freshmen drank beer in the past year and 66 percent consumed wine or other alcohol at least once during that time.

The 1989 national survey stated 64 percent of the freshmen questioned said they drank beer and 65 percent said they had consumed other alcohol in that time.

NIU freshmen surveyed in 1988 revealed that 67 percent said they drank beer at least once and 70 percent said they consumed other alcohol in the past year.

The 1988 national survey showed 68 percent of the freshmen said they drank beer in the past year and 70 percent said they drank wine or other alcohol in that time.

Gilbert said students are usually candid when filling out the surveys because their identities are protected, but there might be less than the approximate 3 percent decrease in student attitudes because of a margin of error.

The NIU Office of Institutional Research also asked their own questions during the survey, including if freshmen felt consuming alcohol improved their ability to deal with the stress of everyday living.

In 1989, 7 percent agreed somewhat or strongly to the statement, while 10 percent agreed strongly or somewhat in 1988.

Glickstein said she would expect a lot of students to agree with the statement because drinking can be a temporary escape, but personally thinks there are more healthy ways to relax.

College students and high school graduates have differing drinking patterns although both have decreased alcohol use in the past few years, said Michael Haines, coordinator for NIU’s Health Enhancement Services.

About 4 percent fewer high school graduates than college students, one to four years beyond high school, said they drank alcohol in the past year, according to the survey.

The survey was taken across an eight-year span starting in 1980.

Haines said alcohol tends to be the only drug that has a higher usage among college students than high school graduates at large.

Brad Paton, an NIU senior math major, said that in his first years at NIU, there were more open parties on Greek Row and not as much of a crack down on fake ID’s. Now there is reduced availability of alcohol to underage students, leading to less campus drinking, he said.

NIU Director of Student Housing Donald Buckner said new sanctions and fines for drinking while under 21 in residence halls have been well accepted. He said the same policy would not have seen such a positive reaction a few years ago.

Buckner said part of the reason for the acceptance of the new policies and alcohol-free lifestyle floors was that “at one time there was a stigma attached on teenagers. Now it is very acceptable to be a non-drinker.”

NIU freshman Jordan Kagan, a Student Association senator who lives on an alcohol-free lifestyle floor, said floor residents are very close. But other people he meets have mixed reactions about life on an alcohol-free floor.

Kagan said, some people don’t know what it is like living on a co-ed floor.