CHAPEL HILL – We found out last week that a UNC freshman found dead on the grounds of a Carrboro cement factory in 2012 had a blood alcohol concentration nearly three times the legal limit.
Winston Crisp, UNC’s Vice Chancellor for Student affairs, says accidents related to binge drinking are all too common, and it’s a problem that needs to be addressed now.
“Unfortunately, sometimes it seems to take a tragedy to get people who aren’t living with it every day to pay sufficient attention,” Crisp says.
A toxicology report released last Monday cited that David Shannon, who was just 18, had a blood alcohol content of 0.22 at the time of his death, according to multiple outlets. A person is usually considered impaired at 0.08 or higher in North Carolina.
Shannon died of blunt force trauma of the head, neck and torso as a result of a 30-foot fall from the Ready Mixed Concrete Plant, according to the autopsy report. Friends discovered his body on Oct. 27, 2012.
Each year more than 1,800 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, according to the National Institute of Health.
More than 690,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking, and more than 97,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
Crisp says his plan is to make binge drinking prevention a university-wide effort. He says it will be challenging because he views the issue as a “cultural phenomenon.”
“The country is moving toward a public health sort of version of it, in a similar way that we dealt with smoking,” Crisp says. “I am trying to start that conversation on a broader level.”
A meeting was held Tuesday in Chapel Hill, Crisp explains, that brought together UNC System President Tom Ross, local police chiefs, and university substance abuse counselors, to talk about prevention strategies.
The UNC System is currently reviewing security policies at all campuses, including Chapel Hill. This includes examining the role of substance and alcohol abuse in assault crimes.
At a Board of Trustees meeting in September, Crisp spoke about binge drinking and why it is such a problem at Carolina.
“I think the effects of binge drinking—whether that be accidents, sexual assault, or other forms of violence, or DUI’s, or even the effect on people’s ability to get up and go to class in the morning and be successful in class— presents one of the biggest barriers to students’ success that we have.”
Crisp say meetings are in the works with his department, UNC Provost Jim Dean, and deans from the School of Public Health and the School of Medicine.
“It’s not just about behavior. It literally is about student success, retention, and resiliency,” he says.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory announced this spring his intention to reduce binge drinking at college campuses. He proclaimed April Alcohol Abuse Awareness Month for North Carolina.
Crisp says he hopes to work with State leaders on future initiatives.