Alcohol use on the rise with freshman class

Candace Stevens

The number of alcoholic incidents among freshmen has risen considerably this year, according to Dean of Students Paul Pugh. Pugh said that the number of alcohol incidents this year was a little higher, but not doubled, and that the freshman class’s reputation was established early, when several members of the class were hospitalized. “The scary part is that our hospitalizations for our freshmen are higher, and our worry with it is that we don’t want that to happen to them, for their own safety,” said Pugh. “Once they’re back from the hospital, they will have to face the consequences, and put their education in jeopardy. I don’t understand why they’d squander that.” And with Facebook groups with titles like “We’re Pretty Much Getting Drunk The First Day We Get To Villanova,” finding friends and facilitating parties was never easier for an incoming student. But some students maintain that Villanova’s freshmen are not that bad. Freshman Kevin Moran said, “Well, we do have a reputation, but when you compare the Villanova freshmen to some other local schools’ freshmen classes, I don’t think we’re too bad actually.” Freshman Nicole Byrns also appeared somewhat shocked when asked if the freshman drinking situation was out of hand. “Here?” she said. “No, because my friends at other schools are drunk every night.”The rates of reported alcohol incidents are higher for freshmen, but the numbers might not reflect exactly what is going on around campus. The increase is at least sparking proactive attention to drinking on campus, according to Catherine Lovecchio, the director of the Center For Health and Wellness Education. “I don’t want to say it’s due to more students drinking at a higher rate,” she said. “I do think that we have our students that are educated and that we’re seeing that being put into action, where the RAs are a little bit more vigilant, and also other students know better when to call for help. I think that’s very important and we need to stress that.” “The educational efforts here at Villanova are at a higher level than they were in previous years so our students now have a better understanding of what to do and how to take care of each other.” She attributes this change to things such as AlcoholEdu, the alcohol education program that is required to be completed by all freshmen, which emphasizes “harm reduction” and giving the students all the facts, rather than preaching abstinence from substances. “The bottom line is that we can’t make choices for students,” she said. “The only thing we can do is educate; we can’t make choices for them. The student has to take control of their own life.” According to Lovecchio, Villanova was the first school to require the AlcoholEdu program, and the school’s involvement was even mentioned in the Nov. 1 edition of The Wall Street Journal.As the year has gone on, the freshmen incident reports have tapered off. “I think the perception rides from the first weeks of school – is this an aberration or a prediction?” Pugh said. “Who knows? Now with mid-terms kids are more focused on their grades.”