Miami University president vows effort to 'break through' students' binge drinking problem

Posted at 2:37 PM, Feb 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-17 18:34:13-05

OXFORD, Ohio – Following a run on the emergency room by drunken students, Miami University’s president committed to “break through” the binge drinking problem in an address to board members Friday.

"Although most college students do not binge drink, the visible minority is costing us much more than in extensive campus and community time and resources. It's costing young lives," Dr. Gregory Crawford said.

"I am reviewing all of the programs and initiatives here and at other universities to see what's working, what's not and how we can break through."

Three weeks after a Miami student was found dead in her dorm room after a night of heavy drinking, 21 students went to the E.R. last weekend after overdrinking. Nineteen were underage and 17 were women.

Eleven female students went to the hospital in one night last Thursday. The high numbers coincided with the end of the sorority rush season.

Crawford promised to give the issue his full attention. He cited data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism showing that more than 1,800 college students die from alcohol-related incidents each year - nearly  five per day.

“As a president, I’m disappointed and even angry. As a father, I’m concerned and devastated. As a leader, I’m determined to do something about it,” he said.

Reading a statement, Crawford said:

"We are heartbroken over the loss of our student Erica Buschick, a bright and vibrant member of our community, and we were dismayed to see high risk drinking behaviors that led to hospitalizations occurring last week following her death."

Crawford called on Miami students to be part of the solution.

"Students must step up and make responsible choices. They do not have to join in their peers’ bad behavior," he said.

A few hours before Crawford spoke, Oxford police arrested two male Miami students on alcohol-related charges. One was charged with disorderly conduct and public intoxication, the other with having an open container in a public place.

Oxford police say the vast majority of underage drinking happens inside party houses off campus and that fake IDs are common and getting harder to detect.

RELATED: Some underage drinkers don't face university punishment under "Good Samaritan policy."

Oxford Police Sgt. Jon Varley told WCPO he has never seen the drinking problem at Miami so bad.

"It becomes concerning to us that so many people are getting to that level of intoxication that they need help," Varley said.

Varley said students filled the emergency room to capacity last weekend and nearly forced it to turn away other patients.  And the high number of calls for help taxed EMS, fire and police, he said.

Varley says a culture change is needed at the university.

"It’s going to have to be a grassroots change and a change of the culture of Miami,” he said.

Miami says the effort is under way. Among other things, it placed birthdates on student ID cards to counteract the use of fake IDs. 

Miami held a virtual town hall last week for more than 200 parents on the topic of student alcohol abuse, Last Friday, Crawford rode with Miami police during their late-night and early-morning rounds, according to a university release.

Miami said it will host an official from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism next month to assess Miami’s programs.  In addition, the university and the city of Oxford are working together to help train uptown vendors and taxi drivers to recognize alcohol poisoning.

University programs and resources in place are listed at