After 21 Miami U students hospitalized for binge drinking, some face no punishment

Posted at 5:17 PM, Feb 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-16 17:59:00-05

OXFORD, Ohio -- Miami University in the heart of Oxford looks like a quiet college town.

Students, like junior Kara Sauer, know of something different.

"We come to Miami and we love it here, but there are some harsh realities that do go on here," she said.

Between last Thursday and Saturday nights, 21 students ended up in the hospital after binge drinking.

RELATED: Police: Drunken Miami University students filled hospital ER, taxed emergency services

"What that says to me is, over-consumption is a real problem and it's been a real problem here in Oxford and the university for a long time," Oxford Police Chief John Jones said.

According to Jones, 11 of those students ended up in the hospital over a three-hour period on Thursday night, all of them young women. The Miami Student newspaper referred to what happened that night as "blackout Thursday."

MORE: Miami University students report 3 sexual assaults this month

Police reports show another student was found laying unconscious in the grass outside a North College Avenue house. Another student was found walking on East High Street with a fake ID early Friday morning.

Early Saturday morning, an underage young man was found just feet away from the Oxford police station.

"Just because you drink yourself to the point of such intoxication that you have to go to the hospital, doesn't mean that you get out of a criminal charge," Jones said.

At least 12 students arrested by Oxford police do face criminal charges for underage drinking. But six students won't face any punishments at all under the university's "good Samaritan policy," which encourages intoxicated students to call for medical help.

Still, Sauer, who said she doesn't binge drink, said that policy isn't a free pass. It's up to students to make good choices.

"I think some people don't fully understand the consequences," she said.

Since that policy went into place a few years ago, students have used it an average of 60 times each year. This year, students have already used it 12 times.

Jones said that most of the binge drinking is happening at large off-campus parties, not at bars. He said those unsupervised events are the biggest problem. 

University representative Claire Wagner said they were looking into the reports from the nights of the hospitalizations and any student organizations found to be responsible for alcohol-related violations would face sanctions against the group and/or individuals. 

The chief also pointed to the technology used to make fake IDs as another problem. No bars in Oxford have received a violation for underage serving in the past two years, according to the state Liquor Control Commission. 

Part of a national problem

Dr. Greg Koob of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said that Miami's problem is part of a much bigger issue. He said that researchers have seen a steady increase in what he calls "extreme binge drinking" among college students over the past 10 years. 

Koob defined "extreme binge drinking" as drinking to the point of black-out. 

He said that the community and school must work together to educate students, and said that families must also talk about the risks of binge drinking. Jones also recommended that parents talk to their children about drinking, even before they go to college.