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Studying in the US: Rules About Alcohol

Policies on college drinking are the subject of Part 26 of our Foreign Student Series. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

The legal age for drinking alcohol in the United States is twenty-one. Underage drinking is a crime but also a common part of college social life. This week in our Foreign Student Series, we look at alcohol policies at American colleges and universities.

These policies differ from school to school, as do enforcement efforts. But many schools have been moving to strengthen their rules.

The United States has more than seventeen million students in higher education. Each year, one thousand seven hundred of them age eighteen to twenty-four die from alcohol-related road crashes and other injuries.

Six hundred thousand more are injured while under the influence of alcohol. And almost seven hundred thousand are attacked by another student who has been drinking.

These numbers, from a two thousand five report, are on a government Web site:

One behavior that college officials are trying to prevent is binge drinking, having four or five drinks or more in a short period of time. Some researchers have found that students who think binge drinking is normal often overestimate how much other students really drink. A person can die of alcohol poisoning.

At the University of Oklahoma, new policies went into effect after a nineteen-year-old student died in two thousand four. He had been drinking heavily at a fraternity party.

Now alcohol is banned from all fraternity and sorority houses and university housing. Student organizations can serve alcohol at events but only on Friday and Saturday nights. And they must provide for transportation to and from off-campus parties. Other new requirements include an alcohol education program that first-year students take online.

The policies govern behavior on campus and off. With a first violation, students pay seventy-five dollars and their parents are told. They must also take an alcohol education class. For a second "strike," they have to pay one hundred fifty dollars. A third strike means a suspension for at least one semester.

Since January of two thousand five, six hundred thirty-three students have had a first strike. Thirty have had a second strike -- and one has been suspended. An official at Oklahoma tells us the aim is not just to punish but to change behavior and the culture at the university.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. Transcripts and audio files of our Foreign Student Series are at I'm Steve Ember.