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Campus survey detects clear alcohol-violence link

A huge survey of American college students has, for the first time, described the violence and aggression students experience on campus and demonstrated the powerful link between alcohol and student violence.

The study by the Core Institute at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale surveyed almost 90,000 students in 1995 and 1996. It found that almost half of all college students experience violent aggression on campus and that alcohol consumption is a factor in most assaults.Philip Meilman, director of counseling and psychological services at Cornell University, is co-director of the Core Institute and co-author of the study. Meilman described alcohol control policy, and education, prevention and enforcement efforts under way on a variety of campuses. But, he said, none of those approaches alone is likely to change the ingrained abuse of alcohol on campus.

"I think there has to be some environmental change. I think if we can turn the tide here and get the majority of people who use alcohol not at all or in a minimal way to let their voices be heard, they will form a critical mass that lets people know it isn't OK to get out of control," Meilman said.

The Core study specifically asked students about their beliefs about the way alcohol affects both social behavior and sexual behavior. The answers reflect a somewhat conflicted campus environment.

Most students reported they believe alcohol helps break the ice, enhances social opportunity and generally makes for more fun. They also believed it facilitated sexual opportunities.

But researchers found alcohol was a factor in most rapes and sexual molestations. Students reported alcohol was a factor in 79 percent of all rapes and 71 percent of all forced sexual touching.

"For better and for worse, alcohol allows some students the freedom to experiment with relationships, but when combined with sexuality, alcohol can contribute to serious misunderstandings, unwanted pregnancy, regretted intercourse and date rape," the study concluded.