A letter from a reader: Reducing the toll of alcohol abuse

July 16, 2008:

The President's Page description (June 11) of the Alcohol Coalition Committee presents a long-needed response to a problem affecting campus life and individual students for years. Professors Sanjeev Kulkarni and Kyle Vanderlick and Agatha Offorjebe '09 took courageous steps in leading the development of a "bottom-up" strategy to address this issue as a systemic problem. Behind the Princeton folklore about "collegiate highjinks" and club parties lie the scattered wrecks of undergraduate careers, broken friendships and the near, or complete, self-destruction of individual students. A combination of the high-achievement culture, relative immaturity of some students, and high tolerance for binge drinking and other drug use creates an environment that often overwhelms the coping resources of individuals and the prevailing Princeton social networks. 

Memory of my Princeton years includes recollections of an alcohol-related suicide, carrying a passed-out fellow student back to his dorm after finding him half-covered with snow, a terminal alcohol overdose, a dean's dismissive response to a clear request for help, and the personal experience of a meltdown that reverberated for years. Most PAW readers can add their own recollections to this short list. While I maintain that coping with these pressures – with or without alcohol or other psychoactive drugs – is a personal responsibility, it is very difficult to dig one's way out of these problems without help from social resources, including faculty, staff, and peers.

  I applaud the ACC recommendations for a permanent body to sustain a systemic social response. Such a body can pull together the efforts of individuals, faculty, staff, and peers into more effective networks that can reduce the social and personal costs of this abuse. 

Mukilteo, Wash.

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