College Students Involved in Alcohol-Related Offenses Often Receive Light Penalties

A new study finds U.S. college students involved in alcohol-related offenses and incidents often receive light penalties.

The study of alcohol-related incidents on and off campus at 343 colleges found law officials were not likely to issue citations to students for violation of alcohol laws, according to HealthDay. Instead of being charged and having to appear in court, students often were referred to university officials for discipline. Students were generally not referred to a campus health center for alcohol screening or intervention. The college rarely contacted parents.

The study authors suggest minor consequences for drinking may contribute to binge drinking among college students. Lead researcher Toben F. Nelson of the University of Minnesota said factors that appear to contribute to higher rates of binge drinking among college students include easy availability of alcohol in bars and liquor stores, fraternity houses and college-rental houses that serve alcohol at parties – especially to underage students, cheap drink specials, low alcohol taxes and heavy marketing of alcohol.

In a news release, Nelson added, “a student social life that emphasizes drinking – such as fraternity and sorority life, and spectator rather than participatory collegiate athletics – create an environment where binge drinking is a normative and expected part of college life.”

The study appears in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. It is the first such study to examine enforcement actions for alcohol laws by campus police and security agencies in a large, nationally representative sample of colleges, according to Nelson.