Nov 052003
Authors: Todd Nelson

Binge-drinking rates among high-risk drinkers-students who are

Caucasian, male and underage-are significantly lower on college

campuses with larger proportions of minority, female and older

students, according to a recent study by Harvard researchers.

The study showed that greater diversity on campus might

significantly decrease the chance that incoming freshmen become

binge drinkers. The study defines binge drinking as five or more

drinks in a row sometime in the last two weeks for males and four

or more for women.

“I wouldn’t say there was a difference when it comes to race and

drinking,” said Nathan Castillo a Chicano senior psychology major

at CSU. “College kids going out are going to drink, regardless of


Incoming Caucasian freshmen, including those who binge drank in

high school, were less likely to start binge drinking in college if

their university had higher proportions of African-American,

Latino, Asian and older students, according to the study.

“The results may shed light on why fraternities, sororities and

freshman dorms have particularly high binge-drinking rates and

account for a disproportionate share of alcohol problems on

campuses,” said Henry Wechsler, the principal investigator of the

study and director of College Alcohol Studies at the Harvard School

of Public Health, in an article released with the study. “These

social and living arrangements tend to group higher-risk drinkers

together, with little chance of their intermingling with those who

drink less heavily.”

The study used data from 52,312 college students at 114

predominantly Caucasian colleges from the 1993,1997,1999 and 2001

College Alcohol Study.

“Research has shown that young, white males are the most at-risk

population for binge drinking problems,” said Pam McCracken,

director of University Health Services. “It’s a combination of

several factors, including being away from home and media

involvement. These kids think this kind of behavior is a rite of

passage, something that’s expected of them.”

CSU minority enrollment, excluding international students, is

about 12 percent of the total student population. For

undergraduates, the Fall 2003 enrollment numbers break down this

way: 14,075 Caucasian students, 1,090 Latino students, 421 Asian

American students, 338 African American students and 203 Native

American students.

“It’s hard to believe that race has anything to do with it,”

said Arthur Garcia, a Mexican-American business senior. “Lots of

students drink, regardless of race.”

McCracken, who is familiar with the new Harvard study, said the

definition of binge drinking in the study was problematic.

“What does five drinks in a row mean? Five shots one after the

other or five beers in five hours?” McCracken asked. She said

although CSU does have problems related to alcohol, she felt the

majority of CSU students were moderate and responsible


The five-drink measurement is common in alcohol studies across

the country, according to the study.

“Five or more drinks as measurement of problem drinking is

questionable to me,” Castillo said.

Garcia and Castillo said there are some small differences in the

way different races party.

“Personally, what I’ve noticed is that when I go to parties that

are predominantly white it’s just a lot of people standing around

drinking beer from kegs,” Castillo said. Parties that are mostly

minorities have more things going on such as dancing, he said.

Andrew Johnson, a business administration sophomore, is a

resident assistant at Corbett Hall. He said binge drinking is a

problem in his residence hall among young Caucasian males.

“Some people go out every night of the week, and it’s not hard

for people who wouldn’t usually drink to get roped in to it,”

Johnson said.




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