As campus officials note the “bizarre” trend in students being cited with very high blood alcohol levels, the University of Wisconsin System topped a ranking for most drug and alcohol-related arrests at colleges.
Five UW System schools made the top 20 list for the highest number of drug and alcohol arrests, 10 of the 50 schools with the most on-campus alcohol busts are UW System schools and six of the 50 schools with the most drug arrests are UW System schools, according to a report from Rehabs.com.
UW-Oshkosh was ranked number one for the most on-campus alcohol busts and UW-Madison was ranked 23rd.
Marc Lovicott, UW Police Department spokesperson, said the rate of underage drinking citations are decreasing at UW but the level of intoxication students are being cited for is increasing, which police find “puzzling and concerning.”
Lovicott said a few years ago it was rare for UWPD to encounter someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.3 or higher, but in recent years it has become more common to find students with this level or higher on a daily basis.
Lovicott said he thinks UW has an alcohol problem on campus but UWPD is unsure why intoxication levels have been higher recently.
“Are students drinking more hard liquor? Are they drinking alcohol with a higher potency? We don’t know. It’s a bizarre trend,” he said.
Sarah Van Orman, executive director of University Health Services, said UW is at the intersection of two factors which lead to problematic alcohol use — the cultures of both Wisconsin and college campuses.
“Multiple data sources demonstrate that young adults enrolled in college consume more alcohol and experience more alcohol-related harm than young adults who are not college students,” Van Orman said.
Wisconsin is the number one state for binge drinking, not just on college campuses but also in all cities statewide, Lovicott said. UWPD has to re-educate a student body that has been immersed in Wisconsin’s drinking culture for most of their lives, he said.
“We try to teach responsibility,” Lovicott said. “Students who are cited for underage drinking are required to take alcohol safety classes. We find we have very few repeat offenders because UW has set up its own consequences,” he said.
Wisconsin is home to several major breweries and a lot of smaller breweries, so it is easy to see why Wisconsin tops the charts for drinking related topics, Van Orman said. This creates an interesting problem for UW’s campus, she said.
Lovicott said he is concerned about the proposed Responsible Action bill, which would grant amnesty to underage drinkers in case of medical emergencies if they call the authorities for help. UWPD does not support the bill.
The bill may lead to an increase in underage drinking because it “lets students off” without consequences and UW already has a responsible action protocol in place, Lovicott said.
UW allows amnesty for an individual with someone who has consumed enough alcohol to warrant emergency attention, Lovicott said. Responsible Action allows amnesty for the individual who “drank themselves to that point” he said.