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HARD LESSONS ON CAMPUS

Tufts president takes lead on tackling binge drinking

June 13, 2010

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LAWRENCE BACOW, president of Tufts University, has the right take on at least two fronts of confrontation with the dilemma of excessive use of alcohol among his — and nearly all — college students (“Presidential sobriety check,’’ Page A1, June 6).

First, he uses wisely his bully pulpit as president, but does so in a sober, compassionate, and smart way. College students don’t need to be bludgeoned by adult figures or even peers. Students are generally willing to recognize the stupidity and foolishness of their ways. All Bacow is doing is to underscore that lesson and, as he says, to “hold up a mirror’’ in front of them about their behavior in the hope of change.

Further, Bacow appears to know that the worst of collegiate alcohol use (or abuse) is engaged by a small number of students. Binge drinking gets the headlines, but the reality is that, as with any population, it is probably about 10 percent of drinkers who have a problem. Bacow takes time out of a hectic presidential routine to touch the lives of a number of students who may well be in that category, and to urge the redirection of their lives. In this way he homes in on the real problem, not on headline-getting distractions that distort the reality of college campuses.

Bravo for Bacow’s strong exercise of his voice as a university president. May a number of his colleagues follow the example of his leadership.

Stephen J. Nelson
Providence
The writer is assistant professor of educational leadership at Bridgewater State College.

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