The Arizona Desert Lamp

Highly Recommended Reading: Alcohol Policy at Dartmouth

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 6 October 2009

DartmouthBeerPongShirtIn light of the UAPD data showing a strong proclivity towards excessive enforcement of alcohol laws, it’s great to see DartBlog – the first AFF Blogger competition winner – punch out a six-part series on liquor law enforcement at Dartmouth.

Part one shows how disproportionately Dartmouth students are dinged by local police, compared to their Ivy League brethren. Part two highlights the unseemly relations between Dartmouth security forces and Hanover police, while part three discusses the college’s perversion of the phrase “good samaritan.” Part four offers a simple remedy to mitigate some of these problems, part five offers the example of Middlebury college, and part six reminds administrators that “the better part of valor is discretion.” What’s more, the author hails from the class of 1979 – no self-justifying 20-year-old-drunk here.

Really, read the whole thing.

Image courtesy of the Dartmouth Co-Op.

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Alcohol-related arrests make up 52 percent of UAPD workload

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 5 October 2009

UAPD Arrests Per Year (3-year-average)

The University of Arizona Police Department has released the 2009 Campus Safety & Security Report [PDF], and like last year’s report it’s chock-full of stats relating to your University police. Last year’s data set has been updated to include 2008 data, and can be obtained here.

For every 100 arrests that the UAPD made in 2008, 52 of them related to consumption of alcohol products. To be fair, the UAPD deserves a modicum of credit for the reduction in drug arrests, but these sorts of victimless crimes combined make up 72.52 percent of all UAPD arrests. Compare this to the 2000 stats, where such crimes only accounted for 60.67 percent of arrests, and one can see a clear trend away from actual police work, and towards nanny-state-style enforcement. By way of comparison, alcohol- and drug-related crimes made up only 31.88 percent of reported crimes in 2008; and while theft (not including attempted theft) made up 39.49 percent of reported crimes, only 13.36 percent of arrests were theft-related. The 37 automobile arrests reported to UAPD resulted in only 3 arrests – assuming that the charges stuck, an 8.1 percent success rate.

Such numbers should be kept in mind as UAPD discusses its mission of “community policing,” or as law enforcement types claim that they need something like Proposition 200 to stay reasonably funded. It’s useless to discuss police budgets – or, really, to discuss policing period – without considering the awesome costs of drug-policy enforcement.

The magnitude of these costs is even greater for the UAPD, which professes to practice “community policing” within the greater campus area. Much of “community policing” involves actual recognition of the community in which one exercises police powers. In the UAPD’s case, this means understanding a bit about the UA. As a community, the UA consists almost entirely of those aged 18-25, existing in a state where they reap many of the benefits of independence, with few of the responsibilities. Such a situation leads to later hours, more partying, and increased drug and alcohol use. What community policing does not entail is enforcing the area as though it were a quiet, gated community. It means simple acceptance that, in accordance with 800 years of tradition, college students drink; and as a result, police should be encouraging safe drinking habits, rather than making doors open at the slightest whiff of swill-water.

Even beyond the costs of expending over half of policing efforts to enforce policy driven by highway funding stipulations, officers cracking down on underage drinking face opportunity costs. Every time an officer calls in backup to conduct breathalyzer tests, that’s one officer that can’t be patrolling the streets, investigating a crime, discussing issues with a student, or providing safety detail in an unsafe part of campus. Students are not stupid, and will combine these insights with the two main duties that they actually see police performing: issuing speeding tickets, and busting parties. Do such activities engender respect for policing as a profession? Will students leave campus with profound respect for the work that police do in keeping a community (as they should), or will they leave feeling as though police mostly just exist to cause trouble to people like themselves (which, according to statistics, they do)?

It goes without saying that there are many cases in which such arrests are more than justified, and parties are a problem insofar as they pose a noise nuisance to their neighbors. But if arrests may be viewed as the productive activity of a police department, then over 70 percent of the UAPD’s production comes in the form of drug and drinking citations. It remains this author’s opinion that correcting this misallocation of resources is a far better approach to improving police work in Tucson, and the country as a whole. It is necessary to change the laws that relate to drug and alcohol use in this state and the country; but for now, a simple return to the policing priorities at the beginning of the decade will suffice.

Every time you drink a beer, Wilbur Wildcat kills a kitten.

Posted in Campus, Culture by Evan Lisull on 8 September 2009
The Dean of Students' office poses for a picture.

The Dean of Students' office poses for a picture.

Hide your women and children – the Visigoths ‘party school’ label is here! That, at least, the undercurrent of this Star Republic piece, which deems that the UA has descended into that bacchanalian circle of hell, replacing ASU as the biggest party school in the state. The evidence for this claim?

Playboy magazine’s May issue named UA No. 5 in its biennial party-school rankings. ASU, which once topped the list, trailed at No. 15.

Of course, as the piece points out, the Princeton ‘party school’ rating system held ASU at number 20, while the UA didn’t make the top 25 cut; and further, these rankings are “subjective and unscientific,” but they do provide really good bait for newspapers looking for something sensational with a touch of authority to merit reporting (in other words – kinda flossy, kinda bossy). Even accepting the Playboy survey at face value, it’s important to note its methodology. For one, a new addition to the criteria was a ‘brain’ factor – not exactly something to be ashamed of. ‘Brains’ accompany ‘Sports’ and ‘Bikini’ as factors. Further, the score that involves drinking – ‘Campus Life’ – involves the following factors:

A beer is only as good as the company you drink it with, so we used these formulas: 2 x (the number of bars + the number of liquor stores + the gallons of beer consumed in the state each year) = N. Enrollment / (the number of clubs + the number of Greek organizations) = Q. Each school’s Q was then subtracted from the highest Q in the set to get Z. 100 / N+100 / Z gave us our number.

Next time you go to a club recognition ceremony, be sure to thank your student government representative for helping to give us that boost in Playboy. The rest of the formulas are equally ludicrous – as is suggesting that this somehow means more than other faux-rankings.

But wait – there’s more!

The University of Arizona has seen an increase in alcohol violations on campus, with police reporting 484 violations in 2008, a 42 percent increase over 2007 and the most in at least five years. UA Police Commander Robert Sommerfeld attributed the rise to a combination of other violations, more officers and more people willing to file reports.

The piece had the audacity to entitle this section ‘Bad behavior surges’, ignoring entirely Commander Sommerfeld’s own admission that this uptick in stats is a reflection of a change in enforcement priorities, rather than any change in behavior among students. Such an uptick is disturbing not because more kids are drinking (they aren’t), but because officers that are supposedly involved in ‘community policing’ are instead moving towards policing strategies that depend on alienating almost the entire population over which they watch. Readers of this site already know that these sort of violations are more often than not petty slaps on the wrist with little relation to rambunctious behavior, but as an example let’s take a perfectly mundane example from earlier this year:

A UAPD officer stopped two men for doing skateboard tricks at Bear Down Gym on Aug. 31 at 11:40 p.m.

After talking with the men, the officer smelled intoxicants.

The officer asked one of the men, a UA student, if he had been drinking and the man replied that he hadn’t been.

However, when the officer was about to administer a preliminary breath test, the man admitted he had a little vodka earlier and the breath test confirmed he had been drinking.

The other man, a Pima Community College student, also said he had been drinking and a breath test confirmed this.

Both men were cited and released.

The UA student was referred to the Dean of Students Office on charges of a Code of Conduct violation.

Kids drinking before they skateboard – next thing you know, they’ll be listening to that rock and roll music. Or worse – they’ll join a fraternity! Luckily, at the rate Dean Thompson is exiling Greek houses, by 2015 there won’t be any houses left to tempt the kids into a life of debauchery:

Since fall 2008, UA has removed four fraternities for various infractions such as hazing and alcohol violations. Another fraternity had its charter pulled Aug. 27 by its national organization.

Again, rather than indicating any change in behavior, these removals indicate a change in enforcement strategy – although it would be interesting to hear that the past year’s Greek behavior has wildly deviated from its behavior since, say, 1925. Ironically enough, this crusade against partying in Greek life has resulted in the school being perceived as more party-prone, thanks to all of the media coverage.

Finally, the article touches on the problems with Zona Zoo:

As the Wildcats prepare to open their football season today, UA officials hope last year’s uproar over the Zona Zoo section won’t recur. The Zoo is billed as the largest student cheering section in the Pac-10 with a 10,000-seat block at football games and 2,290 coveted seats at basketball games.

During a basketball game against Stanford

in February 2008, Zona Zoo students began chanting at the referee using the F-word after a disputed call.

UA officials met with students and posted a YouTube video to remind them about proper decorum at games. In October, the Zoo found itself in hot water again when too many people tried to crowd into the stadium section at the homecoming game. Hundreds were turned away. One student began fighting with an officer, and police subdued him with a Taser.

Does this article mean to suggest that a different group of students, in equal numbers and under equally claustrophobic conditions, would have responded differently? That UA students somehow are more inclined to act irrationally in sardine-style crowding conditions than other schools? Not surprisingly the basketball games, although more popular, had no such mad rush because seats were reserved ahead of time. If such a system were implemented for football, fans would probably act as normal as any other student section; which is to say, slightly more rowdy than average.

Meanwhile, doesn’t the Stanford example miss the point? Swearing in sports is as old as sports itself -your author can attest to chanting ‘bullshit’ at referees since around the age of eight. The far more damning event was the water bottle thrown on the court during the USC basketball, which forced interim Coach Kevin O’Neill to take a microphone and pause the game to chastise the students.

As a solution, respected intellectual and public figure Ernest Calderon actually offered this as a solution:

Still, Ernest Calderón, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, said this week he still has concerns about the Zona Zoo, calling for the athletic department to get a better handle on “Animal House-like behavior.” He also suggested the group’s name be changed. “If we’re calling it the Zona Zoo, are we inviting rowdy behavior?” he said.

By this logic, contra Glenn Beck, President Obama must be attempting to impose some sort of revanchist White Russia, what with the proliferation of “czars” under his administration. Perhaps we could call this new section ‘The Arizona Completely-PC Social Justice League’. The Zona Lovers? Wilbur’s Wobblies?

So in the end, what is the point of this convoluted exercise?

Even so, the Playboy ranking and some incidents have put UA, often in the news for its scientific breakthroughs, in an unflattering light. A “party school” tag can hurt a university’s reputation among student prospects and parents.

To contrast, here is a list of some of the schools listed in the Playboy ranking (with ranking in parentheses):

  • University of Miami, FL (1)
  • University of Texas – Austin (2)
  • University of Florida (4)
  • University of Wisconsin – Madison (6)
  • University of Georgia (7)
  • University of Iowa (9)
  • Pennsylvania State (13)
  • Rollins College (17)
  • Ohio University (18)
  • Indiana University (24)

What do these schools have in common? They all excel at academics as well. Florida’s 94 percent retention rate has long been lusted after the UA. Texas, Wisconsin, and Indiana are routinely mentioned in the same breath as Berkeley, Michigan, and Virginia. The Miami Hurricane took exactly the right tack in showing their pride at their Playboy poll championship:

If you haven’t already heard, Playboy Magazine ranked the University of Miami the best party school in the country.Many would assume that our academic standards would shrivel under the pressure of living up to this reputation, but the opposite is true. Our national academic ranking has drastically improved over the past 10 years. The only thing left to complain about is football (and basketball, the economy, parking…).

With academics on the rise, recruits must meet certain requirements in order to play for our team. The frustration surrounding the football squad is sometimes blamed on, among other things, this higher standard. Maybe if we slacked off a little bit, we would win another national championship.

This idea is clearly a fallacy. Our party ranking has consistently gone up with our academics, according to Playboy, so why the hell would this affect our success on the field? If we can get boozed up six nights a week and pull off As, we should be able to win games and get As.

We’ve already shown that when it comes to law schools, there’s absolutely no correlation between partying and academic achievement. While an appropriate sample (i.e. complete top-bottom rankings) doesn’t exist for undergraduate education, there’s reason to believe that a similar non-correlation would hold.

The real story, then, is not that the Dean Thompson is playing Xerxes to UA’s Greek Life, but that admissions standards are stagnant. The bigger issue is not that kids are getting more drinking violations for UAPD, but that more violations are being given. While an indeterminate number of professors feel that they exist in a post-Insurrection sort of existence, the bigger issue for university administrators is the name of the student section. Sic vita academia.

UAPD: probably not working in shifts down at the crime lab to find your missing bike.

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 31 August 2009

LAPD Officer, Big Lebowski

Given our continuing coverage of certain UAPD activities, it was jarring to read the following exchange in  their Campus Watch publication [PDF]:

What is the most common type of crime on campus, and what can I do about it?

The most commonly reported crime on campus is property theft.

Sure enough, when it comes to reported crime, theft far outweighs other crimes (source: 2008 Campus and Security Report):

Reported Crimes

Yet as Connor reported last year, the claim is distinctly not true when it comes to actual arrests, in which case thieves are arrested far less frequently than pot smokers and drunks. Comparing crimes reported (blue) to arrests made (red) reveals a pretty stark trend:

A lot of this has to do with the nature of the crime – drinkers and smokers tend to be rather stationary objects, and tend not to be “on the move” after being reported. Thieves, meanwhile, move further and further away with each passing hour, and if the object is something like an iPod it’s next to impossible to find. (As a sidenote, the 100 percent rate for DUIs is extremely odd – even for each individual year, the number of reports is exactly that of the number of arrests. Either this is really, really good police work, or police are the only ones reporting drunk drivers.)

Nevertheless, when the theft rate on this campus is as high as it is, it seems odd that UAPD would register 89.5 arrests for every 100 calls regarding drug use, and 106 arrests for every 100 calls for liquor violations – literally, more arrests than citizens wanted. (Further, given the high number of calls that result in no action, arrests almost certainly outweigh reports in both categories.)  In economics terms, there is a surplus of liquor/drug arrests, and an extreme scarcity in theft/criminal damage arrests.

Given these numbers, and seeing how Campus Watch is self-described as an aspect of “community policing,” one would think that the UAPD would stop playing cat-and-mouse on the fifth floor of Coronado, and work steadily towards raising its arrests/reports ratio for theft above 8.9%. Yet given recent reports from the police beat, it seems that victimless crime crackdowns are here to stay.

Fan cans gone wild

Posted in Campus, Culture by Evan Lisull on 28 August 2009
I suddenly feel a strange urge to drink from a plastic handle. (Accessed from http://goodbadandugly2.wordpress.com/)

I suddenly feel a strange urge to take a double-shot. (Accessed from http://goodbadandugly2.wordpress.com/)

A once quirky tale of beer cans is now a somewhat big story, and even the luminaries at the Cato Institute have taken the time to fire a broadside at the FTC.

The coverage continues here in Tucson as well. We appreciate the dap from Becky Pallack, who is taking over for Aaron Mackey at the Star‘s “Campus Correspondent” blog. Somehow we missed it in our compilation of UA blogs, but it’s definitely worth adding to the old ‘roll. As a real journalist, she actually went ahead and contacted the local Anheuser-Busch distributor, who said that there would be no fan cans in Tucson for “business reasons.”

The good – well, obvious – news here is that these cans are not at all going to change drinking habits that much. Since almost no one takes to time to study the cans of the cheap beer that they’re drinking, this is definitely a niche market. Armchair market analysis sez that this would sell best in the South, with its strong tailgate tradition and school pride. The somewhat sad news is that this is an implicit statement on the state of UA fandom – UA nation doesn’t demonstrate enough school pride to justify its own themed cans.

Meanwhile, Ben Kalafut describes this site as (I quote out of context), “[an] application of a bit of tequila to the flickering wick.” With his permission, we’ll be adapting this line as a de facto statement of purpose. At any rate, Ben not only likes the idea, but would take it one step further:

They should embrace it and even go one farther: license the “A” logo or the silly Wildcat thing, and charge a per-can royalty.

I’m guessing that the Bud Light drinkers, especially the ones who’d be more inclined to drink it because of the logo, overlap considerably with those who moan–and hop buses to the Capitol en masse to moan–about tuition fee increases (how dare they charge me more for this private good?) even as the State faces extreme shortfalls. I’m fairly certain they’re also the ones who shout “ow!” at random on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, who blast stereos from their cars, who pile five at a time into trucks and harass pedestrians, and who generally lower both the University’s prestige and, more importantly, the quiet enjoyment of the neighborhood by others.

Bud Light licensing, like a surcharge for the most obnoxious students. Fair enough, right?

Ben’s tongue seems to be at least partly in his cheek, but it sounds rather reasonable if the university stipulates that all funds derived from such licensing will go to alcohol prevention programs, alcoholism recovery programs, etc. The basic problem that underlies this entire discussion is the base assumption on the part of university officials that striving for an alcohol-free student body is possible and worth striving for. For a group of academics supposedly committed to “community outreach,” this a surprisingly disappointingly blinkered and uninformed view of history, culture, and human nature.

If instead, university officials accepted the young people enjoy, and will continue to enjoy, the consumption of alcohol, they could advocate policies that might actually have an impact on the well-being of their students. They would advocate for something like the Stony Brook’s medical amnesty program, which provides incentives for providing care to sick underage drinkers, rather than worrying about the legal trouble that they might get in. They would advocate for lowering the drinking age, removing the incentive for underclassmen to binge drink and bringing the current shadow economy of sub-21 drinking to the light (and removing entirely the need for such an amnesty program).

In the spirit of going one further, I’ll ask: why shouldn’t the UA get into the alcohol business, to provide a nice “Eller IPA” to pour into that Arizona stein you got for graduation? For liquor, “Wilbur Water” has a definite ring to it – and perhaps “Wilma Water” would serve as the Malibu equivalent. The Sage & Silver would be the scotch you drink with your uncles. In certain scenarios, students would opt for the UA’s alcohol over other options, providing the university with revenue that would otherwise go to InBev or A-B. Would university officials really argue that it’s better for that money to go outside of the school?

That being said, this will happen at around the same time that “Zona Smokes” (Inhale the Saguaro!) are marketed behind the counter of the U-Mart. But this proposal is no more insane than the current stance of the University, which denies the reality of collegiate drinking in favor of “Just Say No” pabulum that rings falsely in the ears of just about any informed student. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say.

Real Cans of Genius?

Posted in Campus, Culture by Evan Lisull on 21 August 2009
We only shop because of the name.

We only shop because of the name.

Agitated by the color clash between your beer can and your favorite team? Distressed that you can’t make everything in your life cardinal red and navy blue? Fear not, Friends of Button – the quasi-free market works in astounding ways:

Dozens of colleges are up in arms over a new Anheuser-Busch marketing campaign that features Bud Light beer cans emblazoned with local schools’ team colors.

The Bud Light promotion, which involves 27 different color combinations, started rolling out this month. Purple-and-gold cans are being sold near the campus of Louisiana State University, and red-and-gold containers near Iowa State University.

“Show your true colors with Bud Light,” the company says, according to copies of internal marketing materials obtained by colleges. “This year, only Bud Light is delivering superior drinkability in 12-ounce cans that were made for gameday.”

There was no mention of either the UA or ASU in the press, but the article’s emphasis on “color combinations” seems to indicate that that they could easily be interchanged across the country –  the UA could share a scheme with Kansas or Ole Miss, and it would be surprising from a marketing standpoint if one of the schemes wasn’t the maroon/yellow shared by both ASU and USC.

Yet the story here isn’t the new lipstick on the old pig, but the typical squeamishness with which university apparatchiks seem obligated to express:

Bruce Siegal, general counsel of the Collegiate Licensing Co., which represents about 200 colleges, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and other school-sports organizations, says his company complained to Anheuser-Busch about potential trademark violations after being notified about the campaign.

At least 25 schools have formally asked Anheuser-Busch to drop the campaign near their campuses, Mr. Siegal says. In recent letters, the University of Michigan’s lawyers threatened legal action for alleged trademark infringement, demanding that Anheuser-Busch not sell the “maize and blue” cans in the “entire state.” The University of Colorado, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University and Boston College have also told the company to stop distribution near their campuses, citing trademark issues and concern about student alcohol use.

Samuel L. Stanley, president of New York’s Stony Brook University and a medical doctor, also objected. In a letter to Anheuser-Busch, he called the campaign “categorically unacceptable.” Stony Brook recently launched a national program called Red Watch Band, which seeks to harness school pride and “positive peer pressure” to discourage heavy drinking. The school says it was motivated by the death of a professor’s son from alcohol poisoning in 2008, when he was a freshman at Northwestern University.

LSU Bud Light Fan Can

An example of the LSU 'fan can.'

The universities’ first – and only possibly tenable complaint – is that of trademark issues. Without the official filings or any sort of legal training, it’s hard to say how meritorious this argument is. It’s a rather interesting issue to think about, and raises enough questions to drive a full day’s seminar. How close can a company get to the official hues before stepping over the line? Can the University of Michigan really tell a beer company that use of a yellow/blue theme (and yes, fellow Wolverines, I can assure that Anheuser-Busch will not bother making the cans properly maize) is forbidden in the entire state? And does this mean that Cerveza Caguama should be banned?

Of course, as President Stanley’s quote makes apparent, the universities aren’t really interested in these kinds of issues – they only serve as a means by which to fight the never-ending War on Drugs on Campus. Yet there’s a curious logical leap in their argument, in the style of the Underpants Gnomes:

1. Anheuser-Busch makes university-color-themed beer cans.
2. ????
3. More drunk college kids!

It’s certainly arguable the college students might drink more Bud Light with respect to other light beers – in fact, that’s the very fact that A-B is betting on being true. Far more tenuous is the argument that college students, who previously drank infrequently  (if they’re over 21) or not at all (sub-21), will suddenly be passing out the streets Poe-style because the can matches their t-shirt.

Weirder still, the schools argue that students will buy such fan cans because they feel that the school has somehow endorsed it. This is the more selfish view: our students will do what they do – but when they do, our hands are clean. Yet to the best of my knowledge these schools have yet to crack down on unofficial t-shirts with very official colors, shirts whose messages are far more in conflict with the PR department (‘Puck Fenn State’ and ‘Ohio Sucks’ are childhood favorites). Meanwhile, the UA’s own bookstore (and, in all likelihood, every major college bookstore outside the state of Utah) freely sells beer mugs and shot glasses – and, horror upon horrors, they don’t even check IDs!

Most people have a sane approach to the matter: college students do crazy things, and the university administration has nothing to do with it. They don’t drink because President Shelton told them to (or not to), but because a fortuitous intersection of budding adulthood and minimized responsibilities allows them to.

At any rate, this hopefully won’t be an issue at the UA. After all, not only has University of Arizona Liquors stood proud and unassociated with the school since 1977, but it was the Bud Light division of Anheuser-Busch that sponsored the Wildcats’ Vegas Bowl tailgate.

There ain’t no such thing as a free Friday party without alcohol, either.

Posted in Campus, Culture by Evan Lisull on 11 August 2009

Soviet Anti-Alcohol - "Het!"Among the smorgasbord of programs approved for funded from the now $80 per-year Student Services Fee was “Friday Night Live,” a CSIL program that promised to bring “an alcohol free environment with opportunities for students to gain experiences in programming, leadership development, and responsible social interaction.” For this service, students will pay a total of $25,600. Except, according to the Facebook group, you like totally didn’t!

Something new that will be happening this year is called Friday Night Live! These will be Friday night events that happen each month in the Student Union and on the mall. They’ll have free food, music, prizes, entertainment and tons more!

. . .
The first FNL will be on the Friday right before classes start (August 21). It’ll be a chance to meet other students, eat free food, and have fun before the semester starts. Don’t miss out! [emphasis added – EML]

Err, no. Again – the food and entertainment is provided from the Student Services Fee, which costs students $80 per academic year. This is the antithesis of free. Further, the Fee requires that the “Student Services Fee logo must be used in all related materials” – however, no such indication of SSF funding can be found anywhere on the Facebook site. Perhaps, though, this requirement has all the force of an election code; which is to say, none.

To reiterate and elaborate on what we said earlier: there’s no reason that students should be forced to pay for this. Asked to justify their proposal from priorities in the SSF survey, CSIL could cite only two. The first, the demand for “health and wellness programs and initiatives,” is fairly specious. Never mind that drinking in moderation is in fact beneficial for one’s health* – it would be surprising if the food were a strong divergence from the usual college food pyramid, in all likelihood pizza and pop in this case. “Wellness” is subjective enough as to be meaningless – those whose ‘wellness’ is improved by FNL will certainly be outweighed by those who would’ve preferred to buy an eighth or a fifth and ‘get well’, as it were. The second justification, “Increased faculty/student program opportunities,” referred to faculty-student interaction outside of the classroom. In the latest SSF survey, this student “priority” ranked fourth from last, just ahead of social justice, ‘various campus populations,’ and parent/family resources (the latter two of which were certainly not supported due to their representing of a minority group, i.e. “I’m not a parent, so why should I pay for such services?”). As the survey’s executive summary put it,

• The three following initiatives were rated as particularly unimportant to students, with over half of respondents indicating that this initiative was slightly important or not important:
o Increased Faculty-Student programs and opportunities (52.03%)

Yet even if providing students who like their parties dry as the desert is an essential student priority, there’s the elided fact that CSIL has already found funds to host a late-night event with no fee money involved, a fact they alluded to in their proposal. CSIL could also move funds from the ever-unpopular “social justice” programs to these apparently more necessary ones. But even if they love their dear social justice too much to part ways, they could fund FNL with a “cover charge” – think of it as a “user fee” for a good time. There are five scheduled events, leading to a per-event cost of $25,600. In its descriptive proposal [PDF], CSIL said,

The number of students impacted will vary.  The hope is to begin with having 200-300 individuals participate on a regular basis.  In December we hosted a late night event and had approximately 200 students in attendance, with 75-100 staying until at least 1:00am.  If given the opportunity to grow the program, we foresee an increase in the number of participants.  Some institutions have over 1000 students attend each late night event and we hope to create such a community at The University of Arizona.

So let’s say that such a community is established, and 1,000 students attend. That’s a $6 cover charge – hardly out of line. “But Evan, that’s pretty rosy. If only 200 students show up, they’d have to each pay $128.” Exactly – which means that, in typical bureaucratic fashion, way too much money is being thrown at this program. If this turns out to be the case, students at the UA are forking over $128 in services to each and every student who feels that they are entitled to a party with no alcohol allowed. Meanwhile, the rest of us have gotten along just fine paying our $5 cover charge at the door.

* – Of course, Science sez that such benefits only can be accrued the exact moment that one turns 21 years of age (except that the citizens in some states are so genetically composed that the effects do not take place until 3:00 AM, or even later. Ask your doctor). Up until then, the Demon Likker can only rot your liver out and give you sarcomas.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Tam Sadek

College drinking: worse than the war in Iraq?

Posted in Campus, Culture by Evan Lisull on 18 June 2009

Soviet Anti-Alcohol AgitpropThe latest prohibitionist scare comes courtesy of this press release, which was duly reported without critique by both the Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed. From the Chronicle:

Despite university campaigns to discourage alcohol abuse, a new study shows that drinking-related activities among college students have increased over the last decade.

. . .

“The fact that we’re not making progress is very concerning,” said Ralph Hingson, the lead researcher and director of the institute’s division of epidemiology and prevention research. “The irony is that during this same time period, our knowledge of what works as far as intervention in this age group has increased. That knowledge isn’t yet being put into place.

The study (which can be obtained for a hefty fee here) concludes with this very professional and scholarly paragraph:

In 2005, among 18- to 24-year-olds both in college and not in college, nearly 12 million consumed five or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past month, and more than 7 million drove under the influence of alcohol in the past year. Among 18- to 24-year-olds in the United States, injuries are the leading cause of death, and alcohol is the leading contributor, being a factor in more than 5,000 deaths in that age group each year. To place that number in perspective, it exceeds the total number of U.S. soldiers who have died in the war in Iraq.

Let’s take a look at some of the graphs from the study (Citation: Hingson, R.W., Zha, W., and Weitzman, E.R. Magnitude of and Trends in Alcohol-Related Mortality and Morbidity Among U.S. College Students Ages 18-24, 1998-2005. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Supplement No. 16: 12-20, July 2009):

Heavy Episodic Drinking Graph

“Heavy episodic drinking” is the latest trendy academese for “binge drinking,” and the biggest gains are 5 percent over the course of six years – not exactly the end of the world. For all the hooplah that is raised over underage drinking, levels of binge drinking by this subset has been more or less flatline – for non-college, underage adults (consider that oxymoron), the number is on a downward trajectory.

It should be pointed out that this is not continuous, perpetual drunkenness (the school week, as we call it down here). The percentage reflects that number of adults that had five or more drinks at one point over the course of the past month – in other words, one bad night, or one celebration at the end of finals. If this is considered “risky behavior,” then the word has lost all meaning.

Drunk Driving Graph

Yet here is the more surprising trend – for all the hand-wringing over drunk driving by young adults, every single category is on a downward trajectory. What’s more, drunk driving occurs at far higher levels among those of legal drinking age. Given these two results, one might be tempted to call this an era of responsible binge drinking. Of course, saying that a problem is actually getting less bad never results in any more funding for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA, the sponsor of the study) – thus, such studies have a tendency to emphasize the negative in their press releases.

The article instead finds a new target for rage: “unintentional, nontraffic injury deaths related to alcohol.” As the report states, “From 1998 to 2001 to 2005, the rate of unintentional alcohol-related nontraffic injury deaths among 18- to 24-year-old college students increased from 3.9 to 4.0 to 4.9 per 100,000 college students, a significant 25.6% increase (relative risk ratio [RR] = 1.23, 95% CI: 1.07-1.42).”

Unintentional Injury Death Graph

Naturally, there’s a caveat:

It should be noted that, relative to other unintentional injury deaths, poisoning deaths increased much more sharply among 18- to 24-year-olds between 1998 and 2005, from 779 to 2,290, nearly tripling during that period. Unintentional injury deaths other than poisonings actually declined slightly about 2%.

This is in reference to all unintentional injury deaths, not alcohol-related – and as the above table states, only 26.6 percent of this increase can be accounted for by alcohol. The proportion of alcohol-related poisoning deaths to total poisoning deaths reminds almost exactly the same. It’s worth reprinting the blustery assertions from the conclusion:

Among 18- to 24-year-olds in the United States, injuries are the leading cause of death, and alcohol is the leading contributor, being a factor in more than 5,000 deaths in that age group each year.

For starters, this last clause is a patent lie, considering their own data:

Injury Deaths Graph

As you can see, the total number of alcohol-related injury deaths for 18-24 year-olds is 4,808 in 1998. Yet more important is what the authors neglect to mention – the fact that the increase in alcohol-related deaths is outweighed by the increase in non-alcohol related deaths. While unintentional injury deaths rose by 25 percent, alcohol related deaths only rose by 15 percent. Non-alcohol related injury deaths (row 4 values –  row 5 values), by way of comparison, rose by 34 percent. (It’s the sober kids in need of intervention!) This is also a fact that can’t be explained away by drunk driving – after all, those deaths went down in relation to the total population, by 3 percent when the rate of population increase was taken into account.

Then there’s the fact that even if alcohol might be “related,” that’s quite a ways away from being directly responsible. After all, these stats don’t account for BAC – for all we know, those who died of hypothermia could’ve been drinking in an attempt to stay warm (which might help to explain the 90 percent figure for “relation”). Yet this reflects the zero-tolerance MADD approach – the moment a drop of demon liquor hits the tongue, it is responsible for all tomfoolery that comes hereafter. The rest of the sane world understands the difference between a glass of wine and a power hour.

Yet for all their skepticism of the current administration, the National Review completely suspends all doubt for the NIAAA, responding to the study with this:

While there is (justifiably) much hand-wringing about these stats, very few people seem to understand the ultimate cause. Colleges say they need more money and resources to educate students as to the consequences of excessive drinking. Commenters blame parents who “demonize” alcohol consumption. (Yes, that’s our problem — excessive parental disapproval of alcohol — when almost any high-school principal can tell you legions of tales of parent-hosted drinking parties.)

The real culprit, of course, is culture. Colleges have developed a culture of nearly unrestrained hedonism. Binge drinking isn’t an accident, it’s the entire point of the Thursday (or is it now Wednesday?) to Sunday party circuit. For the college hedonist, binge drinking facilitates the so-called “hookup culture.” And when it comes to sex, the university message is, shall we say, mixed. Do it! (but safely) is the college theme. One university, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, apparently believes that providing student-fee funding to the Roman Catholic Foundation somehow threatens the Republic, yet will throw hundreds of thousands of dollars at a student group called “Sex Out Loud.”

Do it! (but safely) is a losing message, especially when combined with a concerted effort to demonize those private religious voices that may offer alternatives to a culture that dominates campus. From the more “staid” schools like Harvard to the national champions of the party lifestyle at Florida, “do it” dominates “safely,” and the one ultimate answer — a different moral code — is simply not an option. After all, some of the same people arguing for a better path may — in their heart of hearts — not support same-sex marriage. And we can’t have that kind of voice on campus, can we?

Not only is gaymarriage going to take away your peanut-butter sandwich, but it’s also killing your kids on the road. For all this madness about colleges “creating” culture, the drunk and hedonist campus has existed, on record, since the eleventh century. The article is awesome enough to quote again:

Drinking Notes: Students in the Middle Ages had never heard of tea, coffee, or cigarettes, let alone iced frappuccinos, but alcohol was an integral feature of Oxford life, guzzled continually by students and teachers alike. Statutes even provided that students supply their professors with a decent amount of wine during examinations. At a banquet, adventurous guests might be treated to Hypocras, a supposedly aphrodisiac (and insanely expensive) cocktail of Burgundy, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and cardamom.

This drunken “do it” attitude is 500 years older than the entire Protestant movement and Montaigne’s witnessing of a gay marriage in Rome, 600 years older than the founding of the American colonies, 700 years older than Edmund Burke and the American War of Independence, 800 years older than Abraham Lincoln, 950 years older than the first Women’s Studies Program etc. etc. College drinking is, in fact, what one might call a tradition, or perhaps a “permanent thing.”

(And no, it’s not worse than the war in Iraq. What a stupid comparison.)

Soviet anti-alcohol propaganda courtesy of The Museum of Anti-Alcohol Posters.

An Open Letter

Posted in Random by Evan Lisull on 5 March 2009

Dear Ramsey Joseph,

In your letter to the Wildcat today, you wrote the following:

Marijuana has numerous dangers, including some akin to those of alcohol. In fact, in the U.S., U.K. and many other European countries, marijuana is the most common drug (next to alcohol) found involved in fatal accidents and impaired driving cases.

I could not agree with you more – alcohol is an extremely dangerous substance, and the slew of accidents related to drunk driving demonstrate that it cannot be safely consumed by anyone, anywhere. Therefore, I hope you will join my cause in reinstating the Eighteenth Amendment, so that citizens everywhere can once again rejoice in the Eden that was Prohibitionera America.

Sincerely,

Evan Lisull

Proud member of the Prohibition Party, the oldest “third party” in the United States.

Agents of the Nanny State

Posted in Campus by Connor Mendenhall on 6 October 2008

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: UAPD’s annual “Campus Safety and Security Report” is hot off the presses! The highlight of the annual publication (mostly a dull dump of department policies and safety tips) is a rundown of campus arrest statistics, reproduced for your enjoyment below:

I’m not sure why UAPD chooses to present four-year stats. Beyond allowing students to pick out their own individual contributions to the arrest totals over the course of their college careers, four years of data isn’t particularly useful. In fact, it’s just enough to make wildly erroneous inferences about campus crime trends. For a clearer look at UA crime, check out this Google spreadsheet, where I’ve collected, graphed and analyzed arrest data from UAPD reports dating back to 1998, which is a little bit better.

So, which sort of infractions result in the most arrests by University police? I’ll give you two guesses:

Yep, victimless drug and alcohol violations. According to UAPD, arrests filed under “Liquor” include:

The violation of law or ordinances prohibiting the manufacture, sale, transporting, furnishing, or possessing of intoxicating liquor; maintaining unlawful drinking places; bootlegging; operating a still; furnishing liquor to a minor; using a vehicle for illegal transportation of liquor; drinking on a train or public conveyance; all attempts to commit any of the aforementioned.

You know, the sort of crimes officers might need a few AR-15 assault rifles to bust. Oddly, the report contains no definition of arrests categorized under “Drugs,” but I think it’s safe to assume it includes everything from getting caught smoking out your hermit crab in the honors dorm to running a campuswide coke cartel.

Of course, bothering to police both categories of crime — which make up well over 60 percent of campus arrests, and more each year — is a massive waste of officer time, taxpayer money, and individual liberty. I’d much rather see these resources diverted towards the biggest campus crime that imposes significant costs on someone besides the offender: drunk driving, which netted an unsettling 90 arrests last year.

As an interesting aside, as I was wading through data, I discovered a useful chart on page 12 of the 2006 report cataloging use of force by UAPD officers — things like the number of times a gun was drawn, a taser was fired, or pepper was sprayed. It’s interesting stuff, but it doesn’t seem to be published in any other annual report. Sure, it’s public information that can be acquired through UA’s byzantine records request process, but like ASUA minutes, this is the sort of thing that ought to be regularly published — if only in order to find out how many bros are actually getting tased.