Welcome to life.
Drinking among college students is not restricted to UCSB or Isla Vista. Recent reports by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have revealed what most of us already know: Most college students drink too much and a large amount of crime, violence and misconduct is associated with irresponsible drinking. Half of all traffic accidents involving 18- to 24-year olds are related to alcohol, and there are about 1,400 alcohol-related deaths among college students every year. I think that most of us can agree on the problem. So what’s the solution?
In “Parental Notification Keeps I.V. Safe” (Daily Nexus, May 20), Elizabeth Van Dyke and Elizabeth Ozmar are of the opinion that the newly proposed Parental Notification Program is a social panacea to the alcohol problems here at UCSB. I disagree.
Van Dyke and Ozmar inundated their column with a plethora of statistics and very little evidence. Had they bothered to read the NIAAA’s report, “A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges,” they would have found the solution of parental notification exactly where it should be: absent. As taxpayers, we’ve been funding this report by the NIAAA for the past three years, so shouldn’t we at least take a look at what it has to say?
The goal of the NIAAA is simple: Provide the public with information on intervention programs that work. Toward this end, the NIAAA’s report recommends a three-pronged approach targeting “(1) individuals, including at-risk or alcohol-dependent drinkers, (2) the student population as a whole, and (3) the college and the surrounding community.” It doesn’t say to call 18- to 24-year-olds’ parents.
The parental notification plan is flawed in a number of ways, but let’s just look at a couple of them. First, there is no empirical evidence that it works. One of the strongest recommendations mentioned in the NIAAA’s report is that it is necessary for schools to “base their alcohol policies and prevention programs on scientific evidence.” I haven’t heard a whole lot of evidence cited in favor of parental notification – in fact, I haven’t heard any. This leads us to another problem: Parental notification doesn’t change the destructive tendencies that are coupled with alcohol abuse. This is similar to the idea that prison doesn’t do a good job of rehabilitating people to lead lives free of crime. When you want someone to change a destructive habit, punishment is not the most effective way to go about it. Education, intervention and even medical and psychiatric treatment for substance dependence are much better alternatives.
Those are just the practical problems – I haven’t even touched on the moral and legal issues that it raises.
College drinking is a serious problem. That’s why serious solutions are necessary. The parental notification plan is about the biggest joke I’ve heard of all year, and this is a year that’s seen legislative acrobatics and parking from hell. Our time and money would be much better spent on implementing programs that work rather than returning to a modern version of the teacher sending a note home to the parents.
This is college. Grow up or leave.
Jeff Hansen is a senior psychology and philosophy major.