Grove Header- White.png
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

A Rise in Underage, Binge Drinking Leads to New Effort by Colleges, Bars and Prevention Experts


The thousands of college students flooding into Syracuse this month bring along a challenge for those fighting underage drinking.  A new coalition started to help reduce underage and binge drinking among students, which includes prevention experts, colleges and local bars and restaurants. 

Prevention Network’s Phil Rose finds intense drinking on the rise to a level where brain function is actually compromised.

“So when you can’t think, you start acting at a different level.  What happens is, ‘ok, I get into a fight; I start hurting somebody,’ or there’s sexual abuse, there’s a rape that happens, or somebody hurts themselves, or they go out into a car and drive it into a lamppost or something.”

Le Moyne College, Syracuse University, and Onondaga Community College are joining together with the Prevention Network and local businesses.  O-C-C Student Engagement Vice President Rebecca Hoda-Kearse says the group is fighting a growing problem.

“45% of college students binge drink and nearly 21% abuse prescription or illegal drugs.  It can be even higher in community colleges.  Students face even more challenges with transition and other stresses in their lives.”

Kearse also notes students social media communication  habits are having an impact on how young people drink.

OCC students might face more stress than other college students to to financial and other stress factors of transitioning to college, which can fuel problem drinking.

“Because of technology, students are used to communicating via text and online.  So students seem to be doing shots and getting very intoxicated before even going to parties.  They want to be ready for those in-person social interactions.”

The new coalition is also bringing together businesses, along with the colleges and alcohol abuse experts to find the best ways to stop underage drinking.  OCC’s Hoda-Kearse says there’s more incentive for bars and restaurants to participate.

“The governor has made it clear that he will be looking into these businesses and there will be consequences.  We are hoping these businesses come to a place where the community respects them and that will help their brand.”

The coalition is organized by Prevention Network.  Underage-Drinking Prevention Coordinator Phil Rose knows bars are one of the gatekeepers for problem drinking…and it’s getting tougher.

“The bars and restaurants have difficulty because of the sophistication of the (fake) identifications that you can order online.  At the same time, there is technology that’s getting better, so more bars and restaurants are using scanners that are pretty sophisticated unto themselves.”

The colleges are also working together to share ideas that reduce underage and binge drinking.  Hoda-Kearse says they use “beer-goggles” that show students see how coordination is impacted by drinking…and videos that depict consequences.

“If we can continue to engage the business owners and other people in the community and even move toward a Social-Host ordinance, we can have an increased impact in having everyone in the community realize, we all play a role in this.”

The group is working on a ‘nuisance and unruly-events law’, which Rose explains will target those who provide alcohol and drugs to minors.  

Syracuse University is part of the underage drinking prevention coalition.

“They have a party and it gets out of control and people get hurt.  So that’s one way we can help law enforcement move in on these situations and not have to run around and try and catch everybody, but (instead) can say, ‘o.k., who held this party’ and make them responsible.”   

Syracuse University and Le Moyne College are also part of the coalition.  Governor Cuomo has directed more resources go to underage drinking sweeps of bars and restaurants.  Law enforcement will enhance efforts by the State Liquor Authority and Department of Motor Vehicles in college communities.  

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.