MADISON, Wis. — With the Fall semester just days away, college students have returned to the Madison area.
And on Sept. 2, 137 of them were cited for underage drinking.
Freshman enrollment at UW-Madison is up 16% compared to last fall. A record 8,465 freshman students will begin studying in just a few days; many of them have already moved in.
Last Thursday night, police raided a downtown bar and asked 143 people if they were 21 years of age — only six of them were legally old enough to drink, according to Madison police.
The 137 people who were not of age will face underage alcohol consumption and false identification citations.
Jenny Damask, assistant director of high-risk drinking prevention for University Health Services, said local law enforcement has always had a large presence on and around campus at the beginning of the semester.
“We want to make sure people know we want a healthy community and we don’t want high-risk drinking,” said Damask.
Damask said in some cases, high-risk drinking can lead to physical altercations or sexual assault.
“There’s a difference between low-risk drinking and going out and having a few drinks. Then there is high-risk drinking, where we really start putting out… not only the individual but we also see community effects,” said Damask.
Damask said making sure your students are safe starts at home. She added that the university works directly with parents to make sure things like alcohol use are being discussed.
“Through partnerships like SOAR [Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration], we talk about alcohol because we need parents and guardians to be partners with us,” said Damask. “We actually developed a book for parents that not just covers alcohol, but other important topics like mental health and sexual violence.”
Many freshman students are coming to Madison not knowing anyone and while it is important to stay in close contact with your family, Damask said it’s also important to find a group of friends that can look out for you.
“Looking out for each other, if we see something, that someone needs attention, or maybe we need to call help, or maybe we need to say, ‘hey let’s get out of here you have had too much to drink,’” said Damask. “We want to stress that you can make a difference.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or has general questions about substance abuse, UW-Madison has a program called Badger Recovery. You can find more information about that here. The program is available to all students.