Butler University officials have drawn a lot of attention to drinking on campus.
However, Butler deals with and largely ignores graver issues like sexual assault and theft.
Drinking incidents have increased over the past several years—from 134 referrals to student affairs in 2009 to 175 in 2011, Andrew Ryan, assistant chief of police, said.
Alcohol violations made up more than 75 percent of student conduct cases, said Sally Click, dean of student services.
It may be a hasty conclusion, though.
Dangerous drinking incidents have increased with the number of students enrolling at Butler.
“While I think the number of students drinking has actually gone down, dangerous drinking incidents have gone up,” Ryan said.
If we examine proportions, the rate of drinking “events” does not seem to have increased too greatly.
In fact, referrals have dropped from 288 to 175 since 2010, Ryan said. Arrests have increased, though.
No one should take unsafe drinking lightly, and every student’s life is precious.
At the same time, if the supposed drinking crisis does not exist, the attention to it is wasted.
While not a direct comparison, it’s useful to think about “crime waves.”
A certain crime—like knife fights—might get attention from authorities.
Because of this increased attention, crimes that would normally go unreported get noticed.
It might appear that crime has increased, when really only the attention to it has.
However, people tend to assume that an increase in reported crimes means there is more crime.
No one should dismiss the injuries of alcohol consumption, but it seems the shift in the conversation took place because of higher rates of arrests and hospitalizations, not an actual increase in alcohol violations.
In 2009, Butler had a fall enrollment size of 4,505 undergraduates, which translates to one alcohol-related conduct case for every 33 students
Last year, there were 4,667 enrolled undergraduates, equating to a rate of one incident for every 24 students—down from the 2010 rate of one incident for every 16 students.
As reported last week, the university took recommendations from a committee regarding the alcohol policy.
There is no conspiracy afoot.
Administrators are reacting to a real danger, and trying to reduce injury and risky behavior is a noble effort.
But when dealing with a problem that affects few people proportionally, it seems the initiative would be better spent dealing with problems that affect more people.
Sexual assault comes to mind.
Nationwide, as many as one in four women will be assaulted while in college, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice.
If university officials want to encourage safety and care on campus, then reducing this number should be a top priority.
More time and committees could also be converted to start education meetings and update policies—including the penalties for assault.
If drinking can be reduced with excise police and more active investigations, the same approach should be applied to problems that affect more students.
In the same way Butler has a responsibility to protect students from harmful drinking behavior, it has a duty to protect students from bodily and mental assault.
It only makes sense that sexual assault would be a huge concern to this university and to any individuals concerned about student safety.