Twenty-two Princeton University students have been admitted to Corner House counseling center for alcohol related problems since January, just 16 fewer than admitted through all of 2005. And while that number can be viewed as encouraging evidence that more students are seeking help for an increased level of binge drinking, several officials, including University administrators, find it alarming.
Although the University's Prospect Street eating clubs are the usual suspects when the issue is on-campus drinking, representatives of 10 eating clubs, and University officials, contend that the increase in drinking has resulted from a rise in alcohol abuse within the school's dorms.
Brian McKenna, the University's interclub advisor and member of the Princeton Prospect Foundation, outlined a "disturbing trend" in on-campus drinking, adding that, despite an aggressive on-campus effort to stem alcoholic abuse, certain in-dorm situations had fallen off the radar, and that harmful repercussions, including some cases of sexual assault, need to be addressed.
"People need to realize their decisions are not only going to harm themselves, but everyone, basically," he said. Mr. McKenna appeared before Princeton Borough Council last Tuesday for an annual review geared to address alcohol-related problems. Representatives from 10 eating clubs and University administrators and officials were also on hand.
In fact, over the last several years, with clubs facing threats of fines and possible closures, stricter mandates and increased security have been implemented. But as rules have been put into place, the dorms, according to University officials, have become the locale for impromptu parties where some students will first drink to the point of inebriation, and then venture out to the eating clubs.
Roberto Schiraldi, the University's health services psychologist, said the "pre-party" was a dangerous element in need of attention: "People are not going to die from beer in the clubsit's the shots and hard liquor," he said, adding that a majority of students drink "safely and responsibly.
"But I don't have any magic answers. We have to work together to come up with a solution," he added.
While some students are known to increase levels of drinking once entering college, Dr. Daniel Silverman, the University's chief medical officer, said that while binge drinking is often related to the college years, it is "secular" and more defined by the age group.
Dr. Silverman pointed out that nearly three-quarters of students entering college have had prior experience with alcohola problem exacerbated once they arrive on campus. But there has been "one assault too many on campus," he said, adding that the University needs to be more aggresive about encouraging victims of sexual assault to report to campus security.
Councilman David Goldfarb pointed to last month's investigation into the disappearance and subsequent death of John Fiocco Jr., a College of New Jersey freshman who was last seen drinking just before his March 25 disappearance. Mr. Fiocco's remains were subsequently found in a landfill in Bucks County, Pa., after a month-long investigation.
Mr. Goldfarb said the situation could have been averted "had alcohol not been a significant factor."
Council President Peggy Karcher said an open dialogue should be maintained, recommending a regular meeting with the University rather than an annual review. Mayor Mildred Trotman agreed: "It is a big problem and it has to be addressed one way or another."
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