Letter to the Editor: Stats don’t tell true story

As an adjunct instructor of composition at Rider, I spent much of the fall of 2006 semester with my freshman students reading and, to some extent, writing about scientific studies and op-ed pieces that addressed the phenomenon of excessive alcohol consumption at academic institutions nationwide. We researched and discussed the impressive initiatives of many colleges and universities, including Rider, designed to reduce or eradicate this significant problem. Further, we corresponded with Dr. Henry Wechsler, principal investigator of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study (CAS), an ongoing survey of more than 14,000 students at more than 120 four-year colleges in 40 states.

Disturbingly, binge-drinking rates have not dropped since 1993, though in states with laws restricting underage and high-volume drinking, underage students are less likely to binge. This encouraging news surely does little to console the DeVercelly family whose eldest child, 18-year-old Gary, was a vulnerable individual rather than a statistic.

Gary DeVercelly’s shocking death on March 30 was not “senseless,” as the youth’s English teacher termed it at Rider’s memorial service on March 31. Instead, it was a wake-up call to those who place more importance on revelry and revenues than on laws designed to protect a fragile population, hungry for peer acceptance and approval. Rigorous, sometimes unpopular, efforts must be made to inform, educate, counsel and save young adults from high-risk, destructive behaviors that should not be viewed or accepted as part of the college experience or culture.

Vision and vigilance are necessary to modify traditions and behaviors that threaten young lives.

— Marjorie R. Seldon
Adjunct Instructor, Fall 2006, English Department
(Reprinted with permission of The Times of Trenton)

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