Last year 23 students, including 15 freshmen, were sent to the Health Center or hospitalized during the first two weeks of school.

This year, it took only one week for 23 freshmen to make the same trip.

This dangerously high number of drinking-related cases at the beginning of the school year is consistent with what Gary Nelson, director of the Health Center, calls the “red zone.”

The red zone refers to the first four to six weeks of the academic year when students, particularly freshmen, exhibit an increase in dangerous drinking behavior. This is a trend permeating campuses across the nation, according to Nelson.

“We’re obviously in the red zone now,” said Nelson. “It is a real concern for us.”

Jen Duffy ’10 confirmed she has observed excessive drinking by her fellow classmates.

“It seems as if every night you ask what people are doing and they’re like, ‘getting drunk.’ It’s kind of stupid, kind of sad,” said Duffy.

During the second week of school there were approximately 10 more incidents of alcohol abuse reported, according to the public log kept by Public Safety and confirmed by Nelson. The graduation years of the students were not available.

“September is traditionally one of the busiest months for us,” said Frank Ficko, associate director of Public Safety. “We just hope above all that students stay safe.”

“I think all of this drinking is like a freshmen buzz that will last for like a month,” said Duffy.

This trend of hazardous drinking behavior spurred the establishment of “2241: Your Ride to Safety” in April 2005. Approximately 15 students have utilized the service this year, a statistic Nelson sees as a step in the right direction.

With this program in place, students can dial 2241 from anywhere on campus to request that an intoxicated friend be brought safely to the Health Center. There, he or she can receive proper medical attention without the risk of future judicial action.

“That is definitely a good idea,” said Chris Schindler ’10. “There’s a lot of drinking… If someone needs help, they shouldn’t be afraid of getting in trouble to get it.”

This summer Nelson attended a conference of the American Collegiate Health Association, where he said student drinking was the number one topic discussed. Fairfield, Nelson said, is “ahead of the curve” in establishing its safe ride program – a step many other schools are just beginning to take.

The First Year Experience program, floor programs and alcohol education classes are samples of other steps being taken to educate first year students about the dangers associated with too much alcohol consumption.

Jeanne DiMuzio, director of counseling services, has spoken with freshmen and is now concerned with three major drinking behaviors: not knowing who poured a drink, mixing different types of alcohol and taking shots before leaving one’s room only to consume beer later.

DiMuzio is worried that members of this new class are “drinking too much, too fast, and under the wrong conditions.”

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