As I drove through beautiful downtown East Lansing on St. Patrick's Day of 2003, I noticed an unusual number of students lined up at various local bars to "celebrate" the festivities; nobody seemed concerned about this culture of alcohol use. Less than two weeks later, violence erupted in the same vicinity following a Spartan defeat in the Finals of a NCAA basketball regional after a similar cultural ritual with the consumption of alcohol. It was not the first time such an incident has occured in the area.

The largest problem on college and university campuses across the country is "binge" drinking; that is alcohol consumption for the purpose of "getting drunk." Here are some facts on binge drinking:


44% of U.S. college students engaged in binge drinking during the two weeks before the survey.
51% of the MEN drank 5 or more drinks in a row
40% of the WOMEN drank 4 or more drinks in a row
Students more likely to binge drink are white, age 23 or younger, and are residents of a fraternity or sorority. If they were binge drinkers in high school, they were three times more likely to binge in college.
The percentage of students who were binge drinkers was nearly uniform from freshman to senior year, even though students under 21 are prohibited from purchasing alcohol.
Over half the binge drinkers, almost one in four students, were frequent binge drinkers, that is, they binged three or more times in a two-week period. While one in five students reported abstaining from drinking alcohol.


Binge drinkers cited the following as important reasons for drinking:

Drinking to get drunk (cited by 47% of students who consumed alcohol)

Status associated with drinking

Culture of alcohol consumption on campus

Peer pressure & academic stress


A higher percentage of binge drinkers than non-binge drinkers reported having experienced alcohol-related problems since the beginning of the school year. Frequent binge drinkers were 21 times more likely than non-binge drinkers to have:

Missed class
Engaged in unplanned sexual activity

Fallen behind in school work
Not used protection when having sex

Damaged property
Gotten in trouble with campus police

Been hurt or injured
Driven a car after drinking


About three out of four students responding to the study reported experiencing at least one adverse consequence of another student’s drinking during the school year. At colleges with a high binge drinking rates:

71% had sleep or study interrupted
23% had a serious argument

57% had to take care of an intoxicated student
16% had property damaged

36% had been insulted or humiliated
11% had been pushed, hit or assaulted

23% had experienced an unwanted sexual
1% had been the victim of a sexual advance Assault or "date rape"


Binge drinking is a widespread phenomenon on most college campuses, a problem that not only interferes with the mission of higher education but also carries with it serious risks of disease, injury, and death. Findings from the Harvard survey suggest that college and university administrators will want to intensify their search for new approaches to preventing both underage and binge drinking.

Education Development Center


LifeSkills Training


Kappa Kappa Gamma

Senator Joe Biden's Report

Selected Higher Education Web Reports

Social Norms Interventions

Michigan State and Social Norms Theory

Indiana Resources

Western Michigan Powerpoint

Leadership to keep our children alcohol-free


College Drinking: Changing the Culture

Awesome Library



Joel Epstein

State of Michigan

Michigan In Brief

Best Years of Your Life

Prevention Network

When does it begin? Try Middle School



Michigan Executive Branch