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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