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UCPD reports rise in alcohol-related casualty calls

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SEPTEMBER 08, 2011

Twice as many UC Berkeley students were rushed to the hospital for alcohol intoxication in the first few weeks of the semester this year than last year, according to UCPD statistics.

Between move-in weekend and Labor Day weekend last year, UCPD officers responded to seven alcohol-related casualty calls — instances in which someone is ill or unresponsive due to alcohol intoxication or a combination of alcohol and drug use — six of which were for UC Berkeley students, according to UCPD Lt. Marc DeCoulode. For that time period this year, that number is 14 total calls, 13 of which were students.

Of the 14, all who required medical help because of intoxication — with the exception of two — were under 21.

DeColoude said he could not pinpoint exactly where the majority of the actual drinking occurs.

“Often they don’t remember, or they don’t disclose that to us,” he said.

He did say the majority of students who are hospitalized are 18- and 19-year-olds and are picked up near or at the residence halls.

“They usually get back to their unit or (they get) part-way to their unit, and then they pass out in the bushes or on the street, and then someone calls them in,” he said.

But according to Residential and Student Services Program Marketing Communications Director Marty Takimoto, the perceived prevalence of extreme intoxication in the dorms partly because residence hall policy instructs resident assistants to call UCPD if a student returns to a hall “exhibiting signs of distress” from intoxication.

“The UCPD has better information on resident hall students because it’s part of our reporting policy,” he said. “If someone comes home to an apartment, it’s not likely someone will report it to the police.”

While a common stereotype exists about college students drinking in excess at fraternities, DeCoulode said the majority of the calls do not come from students intoxicated at the houses, attributing this to the fact that the fraternities either “take care of them or get them out of there.”

Jan Stokley, executive director of the Berkeley Student Cooperative, said that in the three years she has been involved with the co-ops, she has only heard of three incidents of residents needing transportation to the hospital for alcohol intoxication, though she admitted she is not aware of everything that happens in all the housing units.

She added that, unlike the residence hall policy, it is not part of co-op policy to call the UCPD and that most of the co-ops are not located on campus property. Consequently, data concerning alcohol illness in the co-ops is probably not included in the UCPD statistics.

DeCoulode said that though the UCPD does not typically initiate criminal proceedings for the alcohol intoxication calls, they do forward the cases to the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards, meaning students could still face consequences on campus.

UC policy prohibits student drinking that impairs “work performance, scholarly activities, or student life,” and those in violation “may be subject to corrective action, up to and including dismissal.”

According to its website, Party Safe at Cal — a campaign run through University Health Services — aims to reduce alcohol-related risks for the campus community by increasing student awareness about laws concerning alcohol, reducing misconceptions about drinking, increasing risk management on the part of students and supporting alcohol-free party opportunities.

“The fact is that most Cal students who chose to drink (not as many as you probably estimate) don’t experience negative consequences because they take precautions,” Karen Hughes, coordinator for the Party Safe campaign, said in an email.

Corrections: A previous version of this article incorrectly claimed that students could be denied insurance reimbursement in the event of alcohol-related hospitalization. In fact, the UC Student Health Insurance Plan does not exclude coverage for illnesses due to alcohol consumption.
Sarah Burns is the lead crime reporter.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2011