According to a recent study conducted by the organization Outside the Classroom, the percentage of incoming college freshman abstaining from alcohol use has risen from 38 to 62 percent between 2006 and 2010.
The organization, which teaches alcohol education at colleges throughout the country, posits that the recent economic downturn has inspired students to take their academics more seriously and party less.
Statistically, however, the trend is not observable at Geneseo. During the 2009-2010 school year, 49 students were taken to local area hospitals because of alcohol-related emergencies – the highest recorded number over the last five years. And while Geneseo has implemented numerous alcohol awareness programs, including the "stand up for one another" campaign and the Red Watch Band program, the efficacy of these programs is questionable.
"Since we've made all of these changes, we've had more people taken to the hospital," said Dean of Students Leonard Sancilio. "I don't think we've seen a similar change at Geneseo [as the study reports]."
Sancilio noted, though, that the trend suggested by the study may not be entirely baseless. "I don't know if [an increase in ambulance trips] means that more people are drinking to [an excessive] extent, or if more people are just looking out for one another."
Many students including junior Stefan Decosse said they agree that the study's conclusion is noticeable. "The economics behind it definitely play a huge role," he said. "If you look at the dire condition our economy is in right now, people are taking their schooling much more seriously … [underage drinking] is on the decline for sure."
Others, like junior Spencer Mehr, also agree that to some extent, school attitudes toward "open parties" formerly hosted by fraternities and sororities has forced people to "have less alcohol" which curbs underage drinking.
"A couple of years ago, when the fraternities had all of the open parties, that's where all of the freshman would get drinks," Mehr said. "I think that the fact that all the fraternities and sororities are seeing double increases in pledge sizes, has a lot to do with the inability [of underclassmen] to get alcohol."
Chief of University Police Sal Simonetti said that while University Police continues to work with Sancilio and the Department of Residence Life, the "whole point" of curbing underage drinking lies "not so much with the enforcement aspect of it, but the educational component of it as well."
"Are we ever going to curb binge drinking, teenage drinking, college drinking as a whole? Probably not. I think that's the reality of it," he said.