Opinion

Commentary: Colleges have tough time taming alcohol's allure

So Kansas University is resorting to required online coursework to drill the dangers of drunkenness into students.

As if computer-generated replies to a student's replies will circumvent hormones, free shots at the bar and the never-ending pressure to be as carefree as the next coed.

Thankfully, when pressed, KU officials aren't as naïve or schoolmarmish as they've come across in recent days. They know the truth.

College students don't binge because they somehow missed the previous 12 years of DARE sessions with Officer Friendly, the "Don't Drink and Drive" plastic wristlets and the MADD campaigns of red ribbons.

Nor do they drink because they don't realize the effect it has on them. They drink because of the effect it has on them.

That's true of 18-year-olds unable to count the frosty ones they've chugged in the last two hours, and of middle-agers getting plastered on $12 cocktails.

Alcohol is the great soother of all that ails, at least temporarily. It blunts the social awkwardness humans feel. KU's provost of student success knows the new course won't unravel the myriad psychological reasons behind drinking.

Nor should it. Universities can't be expected to make up for everything that did or didn't happen in the previous 18 years of a person's life. They do their best to create safe environments and push positive messages.

But overall, KU is responding to the fact that two students died last school year because of alcohol.

The academics, not surprisingly, fell back to what they do best, educate. They settled on an interactive computer course to ingrain that alcohol is a toxic substance that can kill you. End of lesson.

No administrator should be held accountable for fixing the issues that often push the drinking. Like figuring out how to make the girl who feels fat quit comparing herself to the perky, perfectly coiffed students bouncing around campus. Or worse, the air-brushed images of women in magazines.

They can't teach the young man that really, he is more apt to get the girl when not slurring words.

They shouldn't be expected to diagnose and ease the pressure applied by parents who preached their own self-sacrifice to the point of martyrdom. Their child can recite how the family budget suffered to pay tuition, and by God, there'd better be a 4.0.

And they can't suddenly impart coping skills to the student who grew up in a household where adults rarely talked out differences, but regularly took the edge off tensions with drinking.

Those are skills and lessons of a lifetime for many people — not something to be expected along with a framed degree upon graduation.

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