Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Taking a new path

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

The opening stanza of Robert Frost’s famous poem, “The Road Not Taken,” speaks of an intersection and a choice to be made between two paths.

When it comes to alcohol and education, college students and colleges themselves stand at a critical juncture: continuing to address the issue through policies and practices that restrict behavior and punish transgressions or seeking to address the root causes of irresponsible and illegal use of alcohol.

This situation is neither new nor is the position entirely unique to higher education. The issue of alcohol abuse transcends colleges and universities. Irresponsible and illegal drinking begins well before many students matriculate at a college and continues long after graduation day. Nevertheless, the consumption of alcohol and alcohol abuse plays too great a role in the lives of some college students.

National studies offer an alarming picture. The use of alcohol contributes to about 1,700 deaths, nearly 600,000 injuries and 97,000 cases of sexual assault each year. And in recent years, the problem appears to have been growing in severity. The most recent data suggest that students’ binge drinking has been on the rise since the early 1990s.

Wheaton possesses no immunity from these trends, either. Our public safety and campus life staff spend a fair amount of time each week responding to underage or irresponsible alcohol use and the problems that arise from these situations. Often, violations of the college’s honor code and community standards can be traced back to alcohol or drug use. [Read more...]