Stay smart to stay out of trouble

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College will undoubtedly be a defining period in your life. You have the opportunity to start anew and the possibilities are endless. But there are also a lot of distractions -- specifically -- drinking and partying.

It's a well-known fact that many college students, legally and illegally, drink. Many parties involve alcohol and sometimes even drugs.

Staying out of trouble might seem like a simple concept, but you'd be surprised how many students find themselves in violation of their college's student code of conduct after a night of drinking too much and remembering too little. Most violations are directly linked to alcohol.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, many college alcohol problems are related to binge drinking. Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration levels to 0.08. That usually occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men in about two hours. Drinking this way can pose serious health and safety risks; frequent binge drinking can damage the liver and other organs.

Common violations of school codes of conduct involve underage consumption and/or possession of alcohol, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, misrepresentation of age or identity (fake ID), marijuana and paraphernalia possession, and operating a vehicle while under the influence.

The NIAAA reports that more than 80 percent of college students drink alcohol and almost half report binge drinking in the two weeks preceding the survey. Nineteen percent of college students between the ages of 18 and 24 met the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence, but only 5 percent of these students sought treatment for alcohol problems in the year preceding the survey.

Each year, an estimated 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol.

But unintentionally injuring yourself will be only the beginning of your problems when your incident is reported to the school.

Consequences for various actions include a warning, disciplinary probation, suspension or expulsion and will depend on the student's college or university. But most have similar judiciary processes.

Students who find themselves in violation are often academically focused, actively involved and first-time offenders.

It's important for students to review the rules and know their rights before getting into a bad situation. Your disciplinary record could follow you into the "real world" after you graduate, which could be hard to explain to a potential employer.

Alcohol can lead to poor academic performance as well. The NIAAA reports that about one-quarter of college students report having academic consequences because of their drinking, including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers and receiving lower grades overall.

Academic integrity and honesty are essential. It's OK to relax and have fun on the weekend, but you don't want to forget that you are in school to earn a degree. One academic misstep can lead to a lot of problems.

A few final words: Remember to be responsible about your alcohol consumption, know that you're liable when you throw a party and don't hang around in the wrong place with the wrong people.

Even if you don't drink or use drugs, you can be arrested and/or cited if you happen to be in a situation where others are breaking the law.


Katie Foglia, who was a summer intern at the Post-Gazette, is a senior majoring in journalism at Ohio University. She serves as a student advisor for Students Defending Students (SDS), a non-profit organization composed by an all-volunteer staff of students that provides students with help and advice as they work through the process of the Ohio University Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility.


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