Op-ed: Underage drinking at Northeastern has become a cause for concern

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Harriet Rovniak

Northeastern students partying recklessly in surrounding communities is concerning and deserves our attention.

Yeva Khranovska, contributor

With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions since last semester and the return to on-campus instruction, there has been a surge in off-campus partying and underage drinking. 

On Thursday, Sept. 9, alcohol was confiscated from underage people on Columbus Avenue. And days later, Sept. 17, within a minute of one another, two Northeastern students were transported to the hospital due to intoxication. These are just some instances of the increasing issue of reckless student alcohol consumption at Northeastern. There has been recorded intoxication at the Midtown Hotel, Stetson West, West Village A, the Westin, Kerr Hall and 116 St. Stephen St. in just over two weeks. 

In the wake of mass gatherings of Northeastern students on Mission Hill, Fenway and Roxbury, an email sent by Senior Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Madeleine Estabrook mentioned “a series of deeply concerning complaints that the university has received from civic associations and residents of Roxbury and Mission Hill,” and announced that Northeastern University Police Department, or NUPD, Boston Police Department, or BPD, and Inspectional Services division will increase their presence in these areas. But, this does not address the root of the issue at hand: dangerous underage drinking. 

The abundance of the unruly gatherings was not a surprise to the student body. It was only days before the email that some students took to Reddit to vent out their frustrations about the careless behaviour of student partiers and drinkers. With the rising tensions among students and the residents of neighboring areas, the one thing becoming abundantly clear is that there is an issue among Northeastern students, one which is spilling over into neighboring communities.

Alcohol education reduces underage drinking and alcohol related harms in first-year college students. An online course is what stands between irresponsible drinking and safe habits. In the same vein, the National Institute of Justice recommends a series of actions centered around education and community to prevent crime in schools. Currently, Northeastern does offer alcohol education modules and provides a list of resources online, but there is simply not enough done to ensure that the students take in that information. The program desperately needs to be reformed, and if recent events are not evidence enough, I don’t know what is. It is of paramount importance that alcohol education is adequate and contextually relevant. In fact, studies suggest that a combination of focused prevention programs and enforcement of drinking laws have the highest impact on underage drinkers. Increasing police presence is a temporary solution to a serious situation: a situation which needs to be dealt with in a lasting and comprehensive way.

In 2010, underage drinking cost the United States $24 billion. Clearly, there is a much larger predicament at hand than just some college students looking to have a great time. No one drinks until they are head first in the gutter for fun. No one drinks until they are in the ER for fun. No one drinks themselves half to death for fun. Any action taken by the university that fails to acknowledge that will be short-sighted, misguided and negligent. Northeastern’s management needs to make evidence-informed decisions about the health and safety of their students. The university has a responsibility to turn their eyes inward, away from the happenings at Mission Hill, Fenway and Roxbury, and take a long hard look at the troubles festering at home. 

Yeva Kharnovska is a second-year political science and philosophy combined major. She can be reached at [email protected]