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Eph Drinking Compared to Other Campus

There has been some interesting discussion on Ephblog of binge drinking recently (here and here).

Jeff Zeeman made the following claim:

re: state schools, I obviously can’t say anything definitive since I have no hard data. But based on experiences of friends at Rutgers, UMass, and Penn State, which I would imagine are pretty typcial, the big difference from Williams is that, at Williams, hardly anyone was drinking Sunday through Wednesday night, most people would go out Saturday and perhaps either Thursday or Friday as well. At the bigger schools I have visited or heard about, there seemed to be more people who were plastered on the weekends, and a LOT more who were drinking consistently 4-5 nights a week. Of course, the student bodies are so much bigger that it might have seemed deceptive, but talking to my friends, they just thought it was laughable based on their visits to Williams during their frosh year that Williams students considered the school to have a lot of campus drinking going on.

Well, I went to the US Dept. of Education site that HWC suggested and found the crime rates for the schools in question. I then divided the incidence rates by the number of students at the school and averaged over three years. You can download the small excel spreadsheet here.

Bottom-line (measured in incidents per 1,000 students):
Williams = 65
Penn State = 34
Rutgers = 21

So Williams has twice as many liquor law incidents as Penn State and three times as many as Rutgers.


Several important caveats are in order:
1) The data is self-reported by the institution.

2) The measure is of incidents the college knows about and enforcement rates could vary across institution (if you don’t look for it, you won’t find it).

3) More students live off-campus at state institutions than at Williams. The data DOES include reports from non-campus property (i.e., homes and bars) and public property, BUT enforcement is definitely lax off-campus and may under-estimate the true extent of problematic drinking.

My experience at large state schools was that most students don’t drink as much as the average Williams student with the important exception of members of the Greek system. Every frat party I have ever attended made Williams parties seem like temperance league meetings by comparison (and that includes some WUFO parties). There are exceptions to the rule to be sure: not all fraternities and sorrorities drink frequently; some non-affiliated students are booze hounds; many people at Williams don’t drink at all.

The data here is messy (for the reasons stated above and a few others), but consistent with HWC’s story that drinking at Williams is roughly the national average among college students. The degree you find the data troubling (or encouraging) is a matter of taste.

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#1 Comment By Aidan On April 20, 2005 @ 11:44 am

I find this difficult to believe. Having looked at the data, we’re finding reporting that Williams kids do a lot more drinking, a lot more drugs and have a lot more “illegal weapons” than people at giant state schools. I think this might be a function of security’s owlish oversight instead of an authentic accounting of alcohol consumption. Let’s put it this way: I have friends at PSU. They pretty much drink every night. Yeah, that’s annecdotal, but so’s all of this.

Perhaps to put it another way: maybe we didn’t get gipped so bad on our social education after all!

#2 Comment By hwc On April 20, 2005 @ 1:24 pm

Comparing to Penn State is like asking whether you are more Catholic than the Pope. Penn State has one of the highest binge drinking rates in the United States. Their most recent campus survey in 2003 showed a 76% binge drinking rate for men and 70% for women.

Penn State administers their own version of the Harvard survey on an annual basis. Here is a Here is a link to a summary report Penn State alcohol survey.

Most staggering stat: 75% of the binge drinkers surveyed at Penn State experienced an alcohol blackout (“forgot where they were or what they did”). Scary, huh?

The average drinker at Penn State consumed 5.9 drinks each time they socialized.

Anyway, interesting stuff in their summary report.

#3 Comment By hwc On April 20, 2005 @ 2:16 pm

BTW, a recent Duke University research study shows that all of these numbers may significantly UNDER REPORT alcohol consumption.

The Harvard study defines one “drink” as a the standard 12-ounce beer, 4-ounce serving of wine, or shot glass of liquor. The Duke researchers wanted to see how college students defined “one drink”, so they assembled a sample of students, handed them various size glasses, and asked them to pour a standard “drink”. In their sample, the students over-poured a mixed drink by 80%, overpoured a shot by 26%, and beer by 25%.

When asked to pour one standard 12 ounce serving of beer into a 32 ounce cup, some of the students filled the cup! Sounds like the researchers should do some studies on “Actually took a Math Class” rates!

#4 Comment By Loweeel On April 20, 2005 @ 2:52 pm

(d)avid, I’m glad you brought up the most important weakness in that argument: Selective enforcement, especially as it relates to housing.

Not many people at Penn State, Rutgers, or any state school live in “dorm” housing for more than 2 (or even 1) year of college. My friends at Berkeley, for instance, don’t get housing even after freshman year unless they’re Regents Scholars.

In contrast, at Williams, very few people live in off-campus housing even for senior year. Add to that that the campus security has a much smaller area to patrol and that in Williamstown, Campus Security is not an accredited police force (unlike Tufts, for example, which just has the TUPD), so there’s the “private ordering” from Security coupled with the redundancy of the public ordering from a police department in a VERY small town without much going on besides Spring Street and Water Street. Regarding Rutgers in particular, New Brunswick and that part of Piscataway, while not major crime problems, certainly have a lot more for the police to worry about both in terms of space and activity than the WPD has on its plate.

#5 Comment By Aidan On April 20, 2005 @ 4:08 pm

Beer, friends, is properly served in the unit “pint” which is in America 16 ounces and Britain (imperial in a few ways, still) 22. Students that were filling beer with a 25% overage from the improper 12 oz. serving size were actually underfilling the proper volume, which is 1 pint. Perhaps this is evidence that more students need to be properly instructed in alcohol knowledge.

In any case…