Binge drinking in college is a national problem

by Jess Hoogendorn

There is no such thing as an isolated incident when it comes to alcohol.

Last spring, Rider University experienced a tragedy as Gary DeVercelly Jr., 18, succumbed to alcohol poisoning with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.426.

Several months later, the DeVercelly family filed a civil suit against the University claiming negligence. Although this incident was shocking to the Rider community, it is not a unique occurrence among colleges in the United States.

He was just one of many students across the country who lost their lives in alcohol related incidents. The year of 2007 saw a number of deaths

“We’ve done things to improve our situation on campus, but alcohol abuse and binge drinking is an important issue that we’re concerned about,” said Anthony Campbell, dean of students.

In 2002, a incident similar to Rider’s tragedy occurred at the University of Maryland when Daniel Reardon, 19, died after taking part in a “fraternity drinking ritual.”

The freshman, who had only been on campus for a few months, became sick at the party and was put in a room. Fraternity members closed the door and told others at the party they would take care of Reardon. When he stopped breathing, an ambulance was called. He died several days later in the hospital.

The Reardon family filed a suit claiming that by preventing others “who might have been more responsible” from seeing their son, the fraternity members denied him “the help he obviously needed under the circumstances.”

The parents sued the fraternity and reached an undisclosed settlement with some students and the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, which denied liability.

Legal action was sought in a separate case at Clemson University in South Carolina this year. Three fraternity members were charged after the death of Benjamin Sprague, 18.

Sprague had recently been initiated into the Sigma Nu fraternity and was reported to have been drinking for four hours before attending an off-campus party. Sprague had a BAC of 0.38.

Several members of the Sigma Nu fraternity were charged with supplying beer and liquor to a minor and using fake identification to get the alcohol. After Sprague’s death, Clemson University and the national fraternity placed the fraternity on suspension pending an investigation.

Adam Baxter, 19, of the University of Maine, was at a friend’s home when an ambulance was called because he was having difficulty breathing. He later died of alcohol poisoning and two students were indicted for their involvement in the party that ultimately resulted in Baxter’s death.

At Southern Methodist University in Texas, Jordan Crist, 19, was found unresponsive in a friend’s dorm room. His BAC was 0.40.

Amanda Jax, 21, of Minnesota State University was out celebrating her 21st birthday with friends. The next morning she was found unresponsive in her friend’s apartment. Her BAC was 0.46.

At Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, Nikolas Gallegos, 18, was found unresponsive at an off-campus apartment party. He was a pledge of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity; however, the party was not an official fraternity event. Gallegos went into a coma and died of an apparent alcohol overdose.

This is just a small sample of the many incidents involving alcohol that occur on college campuses each year. However, alcohol-related deaths are not just limited to college campuses. According to the University of Texas Medical Branch, an average of 4,000 Americans die from alcohol poisoning each year from binge drinking.

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