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Debunking university drunks; "Keg parties" called old-school

Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Hamilton Spectator, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Page: A1
Section: Local
Byline: Noah Love
Source: The Hamilton Spectator

University students say the binge alcohol consumption
depicted in movies such as Animal House and Old School does not accurately reflect their drinking patterns.

A study of post-secondary student drinking in Canada released by the Student Life Education Company suggests 63 per cent of students drink just twice a month, or less.

But students believe their peers drink more -- at least once a week -- the survey shows.

The study was conducted by the Centre for Social Norms and
Research, a branch of the company that is financially supported by a grant from the Brewers Association of Canada.

"When students misperceive an exaggerated amount of alcohol as typically consumed by their peers or when they perceive their peers are not drinking responsibly ... they are at greater risk of increasing their own alcohol intake," Dr. Wesley *Perkins*, the lead researcher of the study, said in a news conference.

"Conversely, by promoting the truth about student drinking, those students who do engage in unsafe or irresponsible drinking will see that their behaviour is outside the norm and will be more constrained by peer influence."

McMaster student Riziq Sayegh, 19 expected to see a lot more
drinking when he arrived last September.

"You think there's going to be a lot of parties."

He said the university and residences however, "really cracked down" on having to be of age to drink. Still, he and his friends -- who were of age -- would drink about every two weeks, "but not obscenely."

Fellow student David Kmet, 23, said "I thought it was going to be a little wilder, but the atmosphere isn't there."

Tommy Piribauer, McMaster Students Union vice-president of
administration, says it's harder for students to find opportunities to drink all the time.

"Residence is not a culture of drinking anymore, because so many of the students are under age."

Piribauer says the survey results make sense.

"Roughly 5,000 of our 16,000 students are first year, and the vast majority of them are under age. It's different now. It's not like you'd walk in and have a keg party down in the basement."

Piribauer said students are focussed on their studies, many of them work and the university discourages abuse of alcohol.

As well, there are up to 1,000 Muslim students at McMaster and their faith doesn't permit them to drink.

"Throw them into the mix, and all of a sudden there's a lot less binge drinking."

This year, Welcome Week is completely dry, Piribauer said. "There isn't as much of a party culture."

Dean of Student Services Phil Wood said he found it odd that the survey found students think others are drinking more than they are. "Your friends' behaviour is usually like yours."

But Wood said universities and colleges are now getting younger students in first year and that students are "much more eager to get ahead."

Roger Prasad, McMaster's co-ordinator of health and wellness
education, said the double cohort situation last year resulted in more "academically focused students" because of the competition to get accepted.

McMaster's own studies show 75 per cent of the students drink once a week or less, but they have five or fewer drinks per occasion, he said.

"We know the vast majority of Mac students drink to celebrate and socialize," said Prasad.

But recent graduates Theresa Cho and Anjali Pathak disagree.

"I would say, on average, people would drink a lot more than that" said Cho. "They are drinking to get really drunk."

Paathak said "either they'd have one drink or go all the way."

The finding that students drink just twice a month "does seem slightly on the low side," said Alexandra Dodger, of the Ontario Federation of Students.

"But it isn't unreasonable to suggest students aren't drunk all the time. Maybe it's a case where students don't realize they are drinking as much as they are."

More than 5,000 students at 10 universities and colleges in seven provinces were polled for the survey last fall. The Brewers of Canada provided the research centre with a $1 million grant to execute the study.

The Canadian Press With files from Carmela Fragomeni
The Hamilton Spectator

 


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