Pool Party Aftermath: Some Good Numbers, Some Work to Do

Do the riot of August 2010 and the mega pool party of 2011 suggest that here in Fort Collins our college students are irresponsible, out-of-control, binge-drinking thugs?

On Aug. 31, just four days after the mega pool party, in an interview with The Coloradoan, Colorado State University Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk said, “Our kids, by and large, are kids of character.” Which characterization of our local college students is accurate? Are they thugs, or are they kids of character?

The relationships we have with our students here at the Front Range-Larimer Campus, along with data collected under a grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation, indicate that Kowalczyk is right. Our students are largely responsible when it comes to substance use.

There are, however, some concerns. The largest areas of concern for FRCC students include underage drinking and binge drinking at 86.6 percent and 42 percent-47 percent respectively. We have a lot of work to do when it comes to underage and binge drinking.

By contrast, 83 percent of our students had not driven under the influence within the last two weeks. And more recently, in partnership with TEAM Fort Collins and Poudre Valley Health Systems, we learned that 93 percent of Front Range students choose a designated driver before going out for a night of drinking, and that 74 percent of our students determine in advance not to exceed a set number of drinks for the night.

As a group, Front Range students have taken measureable steps to address their own binge drinking and DWI/DUI behaviors. Some student attitudes which work contrary to these steps and increase the likelihood of driving under the influence include having to wait for a ride, having to pay for a cab, and defining a designated driver as a person who has had the least amount to drink. Clearly, we have some additional work to do.

While giving credit where credit is due to our largely responsible student population, it is important not to minimize the very real and very damaging effects substance use among college students can have. Assaults, motor vehicle accidents, unintended pregnancies, and other potentially life-altering and/or life-threatening events are significantly influenced by substance use. The risks are high, and the consequences to our students are potentially fatal.

As a community of students, parents, educators, and administrators we have an obligation to encourage our students who make healthy choices, to continue doing so, and to assist students who struggle with substance use to begin making healthier choices.

What ideas do you have? Please comment below.

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John Mandley is the lead instructor for Psychology 101 & 102 at the Larimer Campus. In 2009, with a grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation, he began collecting data on FRCC student substance-use behaviors and attitudes. In 2011, he began working with TEAM Fort Collins and Poudre Valley Health on an alcohol use social-norms, risk-reduction campaign. He also has served FRCC as an academic advisor, and as a vocational rehabilitation case manager. He has a Master of Arts in applied health psychology.

8 Responses to “Pool Party Aftermath: Some Good Numbers, Some Work to Do”

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September 07, 2011 at 7:16 am, John Wood said:

We can all say we are very responsible students to a point when lining up ways to get around safely. Yet with two parties exceeding the occupations of pools or something else maybe finding a designated party area in the off chance a facebook invite is sent just so we can assure there is room for everyone and riots do not occur. From what I have seen and I have not gotten to school yet or moved to fort collins; this is the main and only concern at the moment. The students need venues big enough for big huge parties.

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September 07, 2011 at 11:54 am, John Mandley said:

The Larimer County Sheriff department is a great partner, as are TEAM Ft. Collins, Poudre Valley Health, and CDOT. The Sheriff’s mock DUI field sobriety tests help build awareness for our students. Additional messages which include information about how the vast majority of our students don’t drive under the influence are also effective.

The question isn’t so much about how to identify a safe place for thousands of students to have huge parties. The question is more about how we support even more of our students make healthy choices when it comes to substance use. How do we help keep more of our students safe, especially when it comes to underage and binge drinking?

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September 07, 2011 at 11:26 am, Wanda Mozar said:

I think having the police department come and do a DWI and DUI awareness booth is the best idea. I think the beer googels helped me to know what it was like to see like you were trashed and how it affected my walking straight. They also talked to me about what the law states about the consequences about DWI and DUI, which scared the hell outta me. Don’t become another name on the Death by Drunk Driving list and don’t ruin someone elses life just to have a good time.

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September 08, 2011 at 12:32 pm, MD said:

YEAAAAH right , where did these numbers and percentages come from ? 93 % of students designate a driver when drinking ? I don’t believe that for one second , that is a crock. Haha and 74 percent of students don’t exceed a set number of drinks when drinking ? Those are two of the biggest lies I have ever heard. Someone needs to come up with a new method of collecting data especially when it concerns underage and drunk driving. Of course kids aren’t going to be honest about their bad behavior, especially when the person asking them is an adult or someone in authority. I really wouldn’t put too much stock in those percentages and I definitely wouldn’t be proud of data that is highly inaccurate to say the least. Lets all be honest with ourselves, and stop acting like everything is under control. If someone told me 93% of students frequently binge drink and act irresponsible it would be more believable. I was at the mega pool party and I didn’t see anyone was trying to set limits, let alone 74%. My main point is that these percentages are whats skewed so lets not get too excited . Drinking and irresponsible behavior are always going to run rampant in a college town so I don’t get why everyone is acting so surprised that this party got out of control.

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September 09, 2011 at 9:14 am, John Mandley said:

The well-established, reliable, and valid research methodology we employed clearly demonstrates that our students deserve more credit than that.

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September 09, 2011 at 12:51 pm, Scott said:

I owned a bar in town for 6 years. I can say that by and large, most people do make an effort to be safe. Unfortunately, saying you are going to limit yourself to a few drinks, and actually sticking to it, are two different things. I agree with a previous post, that what is most effective is providing safe environments for partying. When someone has a liquor license, it is in their best interest to promote responsible drinking culture. In my experience, most problems happen after or at a party that is unregulated and “underground”. Nobody false asleep and dies from alcohol poisoning at a bar, and bars usually do their best to facilitate safe transport for their patrons.

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September 09, 2011 at 12:55 pm, Scott said:

Also, portable breathalyzers are great. They are cheap, fun to play with and can give someone solid information to answer that question “am I too drunk to drive? I don’t feel drunk and it would be so much easier than calling a cab….”

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September 09, 2011 at 1:38 pm, John Mandley said:

You are absolutely right; there is a significant difference between planning to get home safely and actually doing so. The flipside of portable breathalyzers is that even after consuming just one alcoholic beverage, the risk of an auto accident is dramatically increased. Breathalyzers may set an unrealistic expectation that because a student’s blood-alcohol level isn’t within the range of a DUI or DWI that driving home would be a safe option. One of the mistakes our students make is identifying a designated driver as the person who has had the least amount to drink, as opposed to the person who has had nothing to drink. How might the owner of an establishment help his/her patrons make wise decisons using infomation from a breathalyzer?