UW Stout efforts to battle over-drinking work

By: Olga Michail Email
By: Olga Michail Email

MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU) – five years ago a deadly apartment fire took the lives of 3 UW Stout students. Autopsy reports then showed all three were legally drunk at the time of their deaths.

Since then, UW STOUT says eight more stout students have died in the alcohol related incidents.

That’s why UW Stout made an effort a few years ago to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol overindulgence. It also made some changes to campus life that the University says are working in its favor.

“We decided then we're not just going to ring our hands and say, oh how tragic, and walk away; we're going to be consistent and persistent in how we address the issue,” said UW Stout Chancellor Charles Sorensen.

“I think the amount and limiting yourself is a huge issue. I mean a lot of people I know, I have seen firsthand of what it can do,” said UW Stout Sophomore Kaitlyn Bown about drinking problem on campus.

The University decided alcohol use had become so bad, that they needed to make some changes, to keep students safe.

“We have a lot of classes of Fridays now to diminish the Thursday night party effort, so that’s working,” said Sorensen.

“Stout Student Association started ‘Safe Ride’ this year, which is transportation for students to get home safely at night from wherever they may be and if they've been using alcohol,” said the UW Stout’s Dean of Students Joan Thomas.

“The drunk bus!” laughed Bown. “They’re super, super nice and always are available for us to call, and they'll be there when you need them. They've definitely saved some kids, you know, from getting in trouble. It’s really helpful,” she added.

And the school says all the efforts are making an impact.

“We've certainly seen in our survey data where more and more students choose not to drink when they come to campus,” said Thomas.

That number increased from 14 percent in 2005, to nearly 30 percent in 2012.

The Chancellor says binge drinking numbers are also down and awareness about dangers of alcohol abuse is up. And that's already a huge step forward

“You don't want to be known as school that has no control on parties, use of alcohol, we're getting the reputation now that mean what we say,” said Sorensen.

Sorensen, a parent and a grandparent himself, says he doesn't ever want to lose any more of his students to alcohol abuse.

“My message to young people is watch what you do, because they're consequences to that,” added Sorensen.

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