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Student Leaders Talk about Campus Binge Drinking


We're going to turn next to two students currently in college. They both go to universities with programs that give students tips on drinking responsibly. James Poet is president of San Diego State University's largest fraternity, Sigma Chi.


Mr. JAMES POET (San Diego State University): How's it going?

INSKEEP: What role does drinking play in your fraternity?

Mr. POET: I would say it's mostly a social function for our fraternity. It gives the guys, you know, something to do on the weekends, or sometimes even the weekdays, just to kick back, relax and hang out with each other.

INSKEEP: And this is an environment in which there are these programs encouraging you to drink responsibly. What does the program tell you?

Mr. POET: It's actually called Frat Manners. Obviously, in fraternities there's a lot of liabilities involved in drinking, underage drinking, people getting too drunk, falling down stairs and whatnot. The course just helps us manage that risk by preventing such liabilities.

INSKEEP: Meghan Traxler is a peer educator and instructor for a program called CHOICES Lite--that's an alcohol and drug education program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Welcome to you.

Ms. MEGHAN TRAXLER (University of Texas at Austin): Thank you.

INSKEEP: How'd you get involved with that?

Ms. TRAXLER: I've always dealt with alcohol and drugs throughout high school and college, and this was a great way for me to interact with my peers and understand where they're coming from and where I would like to go.

INSKEEP: And I suppose it's tempting for people to think of you as some kind of wet blanket because you've gotten involved in this drinking responsibly program.

Ms. TRAXLER: I get that response a lot. The way I respond is our program at the University of Texas is not a no-tolerance program. It's a risk-management, harm-reduction program, meaning we know it goes on. If you're going to do it, let me teach you the smart way to do these things.

INSKEEP: Do you think that colleges are sending the right messages to students about drinking?

Mr. POET: Absolutely not. Although we drink a lot in our house, I think that sometimes colleges are not sending the right messages at all. I know that in our gym, our actual workout gym, not just the place where our sports teams play, and in other gyms in other campuses, there's beer advertisements right above the treadmills. Also after finals week, a beer garden is set up at a bar on campus for kids to drink beer once their finals are over to celebrate. I find that ridiculous. I don't understand how a college can do that and get away with it.

Ms. TRAXLER: And the university sponsors that, you said?

Mr. POET: The university doesn't sponsor it, but the fact that they allow it is what's appalling to me.

INSKEEP: When a bunch of young people get pretty well tanked and the night goes on, there must be a lot of things that seem pretty fun at the time.

Mr. POET: Yes. I've seen all kinds of pranks. I've seen all kinds of fights. The biggest activity at the end of the night when we get drunk and all the girls go home is we all meet up in our chapter room, just all the guys, and we have huge wrestling matches. Everyone's drunk, everyone's rolling around. It's a fun time. It's great.

INSKEEP: It must be hard to know where to draw the line and when you've gone too far.

Mr. POET: That's very true.

Ms. TRAXLER: Sometimes you don't know you've gone too far till you've already crossed that line, unfortunately. That's what happens more often than not, when somebody thinks that they're falling asleep and their friends think they'll sleep it off, and unfortunately the next day they wake up and because they didn't use a Bacchus maneuver or help wake their friend up, their friend has not died of alcohol poisoning but actually of choking on their own vomit.

INSKEEP: Meghan Traxler is a peer educator and instructor for Choices Lite at the University of Texas at Austin.

Thanks very much.

Ms. TRAXLER: Thank you.

INSKEEP: James Poet is president of San Diego State University's biggest fraternity, Sigma Chi.

Thanks for speaking with us.

Mr. POET: Thank you.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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