Alcohol consumption, particularly binge drinking, is an old problem on college campuses. But a new report by a task force associated with the National Institutes of Health should spark some fresh thinking about solutions.
The report includes startling numbers about the damage done by college drinking: 1,400 deaths each year, 500,000 injuries, and 70,000 sexual assaults. On top of that are the academic costs when students become more fixated on party nights than on all-nighters spent studying.
The research also compiles various strategies that can help reduce the losses from drinking. High among these is greater cooperation between universities and their surrounding communities to reduce availability of alcohol and enforce minimum-drinking-age laws.
Schools are encouraged to be tougher in ruling out so-called keg parties on campus and drinking at sports events. Older, more responsible resident advisers in dorms can be a help.
Since younger students seem particularly vulnerable to drinking's lure, freshman orientation needs more in-depth discussion of the dangers of alcohol abuse. Campus advertising campaigns that emphasize the fact that most students, 60 percent, either don't drink or drink moderately have proven effective.
Colleges have to dispel the notion that heavy drinking is the norm. For places that try to cultivate clear thinking, the opposite must be true.