- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001

CHICAGO (AP) — The accounts of how they died are sobering.
A University of Michigan student celebrating his 21st birthday died after downing his 20th shot in 10 minutes. An Old Dominion University student choked to death on his own vomit during a pledge-week drinking binge. A Colgate University student is facing four years in prison after crashing into a tree during a night of drinking, killing four students.
Those were just a few of the college drinking tragedies last school year.
"Most students get here and think, 'Oh, it's freedom. I can do whatever I want without mom and dad finding out,'" said Kelly Hill of Detroit, a junior at the University of Michigan. "A lot of them don't know what their limits are."
A nationwide survey by the American Medical Association (AMA) released yesterday shows that college binge-drinking is among parents' top concerns. Of the parents surveyed, 95 percent said excessive drinking is a serious threat to their children and 85 percent said easy access to alcohol in college communities contributes to the problem.
"We can no longer treat binge drinking as a rite of passage. It's a major health threat, not only to binge drinkers but also to the people around them," Dr. J. Edward Hill, AMA's chairman-elect, said yesterday.
Binge drinking often is described as four drinks within an hour for a female or five drinks in an hour for a male.
Chancellor John Wiley of the University of Wisconsin at Madison said while most parents are concerned about their students' drinking, other parents can contribute to the problem.
"We've had to confiscate cases of beer that parents were bringing into the dorms," he said, noting an incident where parents were found drinking in their child's dormitory room.
Two students died at the university in alcohol-related falls last year and 40 others received emergency-room treatment for severe drunkenness.
To cut down alcohol access, the new basketball-hockey stadium won't be selling beer, an estimated loss of $500,000 during hockey season alone.
The university is also among 10 colleges nationwide participating in an AMA-led initiative to curb binge drinking.
The $17.5 million AMA program started in 1996 with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to address a problem that affects an estimated 44 percent of U.S. college students.
Its efforts include eliminating alcohol-industry sponsorships of athletics, mandating parental notification if underage students are caught with alcohol, increasing alcohol-free social events on campus and encouraging local tavern owners to eliminate drink specials geared toward students.
George Bergalis, whose daughter Sondra, a Florida State University student, died in a car crash last fall after a night of heavy drinking, said bar owners are partly to blame for college binge-drinking.
"The bars in these college towns, which are there to maximize profits, realize the harmful effects they might have on the students," Mr. Bergalis said.
In Madison, Mr. Wiley said several tavern owners near the University of Wisconsin campus had agreed not to have ladies' nights or two-for-one specials known to draw students.
"They were forced to do that or lose their licenses," said Barbara Mercer, president of the local tavern league.

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