Understanding the risks of drinking is important

By Susan Kantor

On campus is a plethora of opportunities for students to knock back a cold one or six.

But there are risks freshmen should be aware of as they begin college life.

“Pre-gaming,” or drinking before one heads out to a party or the bars, happens across campus. However, underage drinking in residence halls is against the policy described in the “Housing Hallmarks” available on the University’s Web site.

The “Six Pack,” also known as the “Six Plex,” is a group of six residence halls in the southwest part of campus that is notorious for being the “party dorms.”

“I think (the pressure to drink) is because students in the Six Plex are closer to the bars and there’s also this idea out there that if you live in the Six Plex, this is what you have to do,” said Crystal Verdun, resident director for Wardall Hall. “I think some students buy into that mentality. There is a definite difference in what (Urbana residence halls) see and what Champaign sees.”

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Champaign Police are aware of drinking that occurs throughout the week, and any police reports can be transferred to University Police; the University can be made aware of any altercation.

“We have a variety of enforcement strategies,” said Sgt. Scott Friedlein of the Champaign Police Department, who is also in charge of alcohol enforcement.

“We have continuous alcohol enforcement throughout the summer and school year, which include bar raids to street sweep patrols to ‘follow the keg’ procedures. We’re continuously looking for ways to stop binge drinking.”

Champaign Police conduct between 30-35 bar raids per year, with officers in plain-clothes on the lookout for “an obvious violation of the law,” Friedlein said.

Bars work with the police to stop underage drinking said Joe Bonilla, manager of Joe’s Brewery, 706 S. 5th St. in Champaign. Doormen and bouncers walk the floors of Joe’s, ensuring every person with a drink has both an over 21 hand stamp and wristband.

“We won’t serve anyone without the correct stamp and wristband,” Bonilla said. “If we see something, we are going to take it away and escort them out. Just be smart. The cops here know the game and they won’t stand for any problems.”

Many problems occur after the bars close or after house parties are finished, Verdun said, and students stumble in between 3-4 a.m.

“I have seen an increasing rise in alcohol incidents this year and it is a mix between people who have been drinking in their rooms and people who are coming back from a house party or from an off-campus party or from a bar,” Verdun said.

After students leave the bars, the majority of calls to the paramedics are made. The Carle Arrow Ambulance receives about 40 calls per week of intoxicated students, said Dave Kirby, paramedic for the ambulance.

“Once we determine they can’t stay by themselves, we take them to the hospital,” Kirby said. “There are certain degrees of drunkenness and once you pass that degree, you’re going with us. (The cost) is free until you get into the back of the truck and we have to take you somewhere.”

Verdun wanted to make sure students know that drinking is not the only thing to do on campus.

“Just do your own thing and don’t be overwhelmed about how much there is to do, and don’t let your fun involve getting drunk,” she said. u