As CSU continues to battle underage drinking on campus, measures are being stepped up this year to prevent alcohol-related deaths at fraternities and sororities.
The university agreed this year to welcome Student Emergency Medical Services workers – trained emergency medical technicians /- on site at events to keep students safe.
The program, which started at CU-Boulder after freshman Gordie Bailey died of alcohol poisoning in 2004, is designed to protect students at booze-fueled parties, not to punish them, said Ted Young, SEMS co-founder.
In recent years, drinking at CSU has been spotlighted as a concern
The Core Institute, a leading substance abuse research and prevention group, reports that 300,000 of today’s college students will eventually die of alcohol-related causes.
Spady was found in the Sigma Pi fraternity after a night of binge drinking, suspected of downing 30-40 drinks before her death. Bailey, a Chi Psi fraternity pledge, had four handles of whiskey and six bottles of wine to consume in half an hour.
Anthony Rossi, co-founder of SEMS said, “If it would have been my frat house I would have known something was wrong.”
Aware of the changing culture of alcohol, SEMS is working to protect and educate students.
“We support college life and drinking has been embedded for a long time,” Rossi said. The program is not intended “to take cups from people [but to] empower the students and give them the power and tools to run these organizations.”
The program wasn’t initially accepted by students or Greek organizations.
“There was a lot of resistance from the Greek community because they wanted to keep things secret,” Young said. “Once they understood that the EMT was not there to rat out to the cops they became more welcoming and the program is now becoming widely accepted.”
Conflict and resistance from the CSU administration due to liability issues postponed the programs start in 2005, but the new administration understands alcohol is a concern.
“It is really encouraging because for them to know that this is a cultural issue speaks a lot of the administrators we have right now,” Rossi said.
After launching SEMS in 2005, the program saw 69 patients during the first semester. Young said he believes the foundation is making an impact since “CU-Boulder is no longer in the top 20 party schools and there has been a 15-30% decrease in alcohol-related issues.”
With the culture of drinking changing, concerns about sparking nationwide about students safety.
The U.S. Surgeon General and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are calling binge drinking among college students a major public health problem.
Almost 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under 21 is done through binge drinking defined as five or more drinks in two hours for men and three or more for women according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SEMS is in the beginning stages at CSU, working to develop a relationship with RamRide, a free service providing intoxicated students a safe way home, and getting students involved.
“We are really excited about it,” Rossi said. “We found 80 students that are really excited about getting the program started at CSU.”
Any organization including fraternity and sorority parties can request EMT presence at an event.
“We hang out at parties with our gear,” Ben Fleisher, CU-Boulder junior and SEMS volunteer said. “We are not about policing people. We check vital signs, do alcohol assessments and determine if an ambulance or emergency room,” is needed.
Anyone interested in getting involved should look for information in the campus bulletin.
“Our sole purpose is to prevent injury and prevent harm,” Young said. “We have weathered the storm and people generally understand what it is we do.”
Staff writer Kayla Huddleston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If a person has any of the following symptoms, call 911:
/ Unconscious or semi-conscious
/ Breathing fewer than 10 times per minute or irregular (check every two minutes)
/ Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin
/ Can’t be awakened by pinching, prodding or shouting
/ Vomiting without waking up
Source: Sam Spady Foundation