OXFORD, Ohio -- Miami University’s president committed to “break through” the issue of underage binge drinking in an address to board members Feb. 17.
“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,” University President Gregory Crawford said.
State agents arrested 17 people Friday at Johnny's Campus Deli on East Sycamore Street near Miami's campus. All used fake identifications to buy beer, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol's Ohio Investigative Unit. They were charged with underage possession and issued a summons to appear in the Butler County Area I Court for judicial hearings in the upcoming weeks.
Agents also seized 21 fake drivers' licenses and student ID cards from the underage suspects, according to the state patrol.
The issue of underage and binge drinking in Oxford came to light when at least 21 students were hospitalized two weekends ago due to alcohol-related illnesses. Of the 21 students hospitalized, 17 are female and all but two are underage.
Those students apparently ignored the danger of overdrinking even after a Miami student, Erica Buschick, was found dead in her Morris Hall dorm room Jan. 20. A police report confirmed via interviews with Buschick's friends that she had been drinking heavily the night before her death.
The official cause of death is still pending toxicology, but Miami President Greg Crawford wrote in a statement that police reports suggest "that alcohol contributed to this tragedy."
Oxford Police Sgt. Jon Varley said the slew of drunken students filled the hospital emergency room to capacity that weekend and nearly forced it to turn away other patients.
"What I have seen in my time here is that the number of these highly intoxicated cases has increased and their BAC (blood alcohol content) numbers, the amount of alcohol that they consume, has gone way up,” Varley said. “It is past social drinking. It becomes concerning to us that so many people are getting to that level of intoxication that they need help."
Varley said the number of alcohol related incidents at Miami is causing an impact on police, fire and EMS.
“This past weekend, we had three life squads out and we still had to call for help," he said. "This is spreading our resources very thin. So it impacts the entire city if you let this happen."
Crawford is reviewing all of the programs and initiatives at Miami “to see what’s working, what’s not and how we can break through,” he told The Journal-News.
Miami will also host an official from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism next month to assess the university’s programs.
Here are other ways the university and Oxford community said they are responding to the issue:
Changes to student IDs
Oxford police say fake IDs are common and are getting harder to detect.
Many of the underage people hospitalized for binge drinking earlier this month were in possession of fake IDs, police told our news partner WCPO.
“A lot of times these are pretty effective, because just the average person can’t recognize or won’t be able to recognize what’s real and what’s not,” Oxford Police Sgt. Jon Varley said of the fake IDs.
New student ID cards will contain the date of birth for the student, and the bars will ask for that in addition to a state ID, police said.
On Feb. 24, a public event featuring Michael Curme, associate vice president and dean of students, will take place at Shriver Center, room 104. The event — called Building a Better Community by Confronting High-Risk Alcohol Consumption — will take place from 4 to 5 p.m. at 701 E. Spring St. and will feature a presentation by Curme, a Q&A session, and an interactive brainstorming session.
Miami recently held a virtual town hall for more than 200 parents on the topic of student alcohol abuse.
Crawford also participated in ride-alongs with the Miami University Police Department during its late-night and early-morning rounds, according to a press release from the university.
The university and the city of Oxford are training uptown businesses and taxi drivers to recognize signs of alcohol poisoning.
WCPO reporters Ashley Zilka, Hillary Lake and Jay Warren contributed to this report.