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Binge Drinking Big on HBCU Campuses

A new study has found that students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities don’t engage in binge drinking as much as their white counterparts, but it’s still a pervasive problem that has academics, health officials, and the law enforcement community worried.

The study of student behavior sponsored by the Century Council and conducted by Baltimore’s Morgan State University revealed that 54 percent of full-time HBCU students who drink at least once a week and go out socially at least twice a week engage in binge drinking.

At non-HBCU campuses, 64 percent of students said they engaged in binge drinking. But students at both HBCUs and general population institutions indicated that binge-drinking isn’t a problem. A majority of college students said they have a good grasp on their drinking limits and always maintain them, according to the study.

Experts disagree. Binge drinking leads to violence, unsafe sex, sexual abuse and death. It costs college campuses and students hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. A study last January by the Centers for Disease Control showed the college-age drinkers average nine drinks when they get drunk.

It’s a big enough problem the Century Council enlisted the help of former National Basketball Association star Shaquille O’Neal to help unveil its report.

“Binge drinking on college campuses is dangerous and has got to stop,” the 7-foot-plus O’Neal said. “Strategies to combat it need to be more effective on a national level, which is why I’m proud to lend my support to this effort by working with Morehouse College and the Century Council.”

The Century Council study revealed that black and white students party – and drink – in different ways. Two-thirds of HBCU students are more likely to attend pre-game parties, where binge drinking is common, while 36 percent of students and general population campuses partake in pre-game festivities.

One third of HBCU students don’t always realize how intoxicated they re until later compared to 39 percent of college students nationally.

 “Perceptions and how students handle drinking on HBCU campuses is different from non-HBCU students,” Ralph Blackman, president and CEO of the Century Council said. “One-size-fits all approaches to issues like college binge drinking don’t work and we believe that this new data and initiative will help address a problem at a more strategic level.”

More than 1,800 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related injuries, according to National Institutes of Health statistics. The CDC says binge drinking accounts for 40,000 deaths each year among the overall population.

“When people binge drink, especially the younger crowd, they binge drink, they go out, they drive, and they drive and they go home,” O’Neal told CNN. “Their thought process is ‘Hey, I did it. Nothing happened. It’s OK.’ But it’s not OK.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, noted that O’Neal’s star power attracted a roomful of lawmakers and journalists to the press conference unveiling the Century Council study.

“They came to get a photograph with him, but they also heard my story,” Cleaver told The Examiner newspaper. Cleaver’s best friend, who was O’Neal’s uncle, was killed in an auto accident by a man who had been binge-drinking.

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