Parties, college. College, parties. The two are almost inseparable from one another. Whether being profiled in major publications like Playboy and U.S. News and World Reports as outstanding party schools or not, almost all major colleges and universities around the nation serve as havens for imbibing young adults to let loose.
Unfortunately, a byproduct of widespread availability of alcohol on college campuses is underage drinking. While we do not condone this illegal activity in any form, The Publius Foundation recognizes that it does happen. As long as there are large numbers of young adults in varying degrees of age and maturity gathered en masse anywhere, it will likely continue to happen, too.
In order to curtail underage drinking, the University of Pittsburgh implemented a zero-tolerance policy towards underage drinking that allows not only for charges to be brought against underage students by the city of Pittsburgh, but also that the University has the right to reprimand students — whether the incident occurred on school property or not.
Most dangerously, this policy extends through the doors of UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. Should one need medical attention after a night of excessive drinking, University of Pittsburgh Police stationed in the emergency room are prepared to cite underage students seeking medical attention and turn over their information to the Judicial Board for punishment. Interestingly enough, UPMC Mercy does not enforce the same policy.
Rather than discourage underage drinking, such a policy is excessively dangerous for students who may need medical attention after heavy alcohol consumption. In many cases, students will take the option of fending for themselves in a dorm room with other intoxicated students rather than be charged with an underage at the hospital’s door. In the wake of this past school year when 18-year-old Penn State student Joseph Dado was found dead in a stairwell with a blood-alcohol level of 0.169, it serves to reason that rather than let new and inexperienced students fend for themselves — sometimes to very bad results — the University should aim to assist and educate students in a safe and productive manner rather than punish them for seeking medical help.
This briefing aims to dissect the policy, looking at its various facets with regard to:
- The University’s Stance. Chancellor Mark Nordenberg won accolades for his condemnation of drinking at Pitt. But what steps has he or the University specifically taken to deserve such honors? Are they really that effective at reducing underage drinking and dangerous levels of intoxication?
- Outside Institutions. With neighbors like Duquesne University and Carnegie Mellon surrounding Pitt, one has to wonder how they handle the same issues. What sorts of results do they provide?
- Additional Pitt Policies. Here are noteworthy additional regulations Pitt institutes in enforcing its alcohol policy—above and beyond the law.
To download the full policy briefing as a PDF, please click here.