Boozing at the Ondine

Evan Soares is a social drinker. He does not have a drinking problem and does not see drinking as a problem. What he does have a problem with, however, are the people on his floor at the Ondine who drink strictly to get drunk. To him, the “people trying to prove something” give the casual partygoers a bad name.


The collective “bad name” he describes was confronted this week with a leaflet on everyone’s door in student housing.


In the past week, residents of student housing at Portland State have received fliers warning of the dangers of alcohol abuse and the safety precautions that should be taken when drinking. These fliers come on the heels of hospitalizations caused by drinking at the Ondine, and a student’s alcohol-related death in the Broadway.


Soares, a resident in the First Year Experience program, said the festivities that take place in the Ondine do not worry him much.


“One out of three rooms will have beer,” he said. Things remain relatively calm during the week, he added, but it is during the weekend when the student disposition switches from study time to happy hour.


“There’s rampant alcohol use,” Soares said. “It’s really obvious partying.”


Don Yackley, director of Residence Life at Portland State, said it is all part of the transition to the college experience. Safety is the most important issue, he said, but he has come to realize that now is the time of year when this type of conduct increases. With students fresh out of high school and meeting new people, experimenting and experiencing new freedoms becomes very important.


Ondine, which houses First Year Experience residents on the third through seventh floors, has been more heavily targeted with educational pamphlets specifically because it is where the most freshmen live.


The fliers on their doors address open conversation and community, the symptoms and signs of alcohol poisoning and what to do to help someone in such a state. Another pamphlet rattles off statistics on deaths and injuries.


Yackley said that disciplining of students depends on the nature of the incident, but the philosophy of discipline through education remains the guiding force. Each floor has a resident assistant who is well versed on confronting situations involving alcohol, policy enforcement and approaching all problems in a tolerant and accessible manner.


The goal of reducing these situations remains largely unsolved. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1,400 college students die every year from alcohol-related deaths, and 1,100 of those deaths involve drinking and driving. Almost half a million students participate in unprotected sex every year while under the influence of alcohol.


While the overall number of “binge drinkers” stays static, there is less middle ground. One out of every five undergraduates abstains from alcohol. Ten years ago, only one in six refused the temptation. This division equates less casual drinkers and what is left is the all-or-nothing crowd.


“People make mistakes, it doesn’t mean they’re bad people,” Yackley said. “We want to help them make good decisions, to help them be successful.”


“What school doesn’t have it?” said Merisa White, a pre-nursing FYE resident of the nationwide dilemma of college drinking. The Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study found that while most colleges experience problems with drinking, schools in the Northeast and Midwest have higher rates than elsewhere. This study also identified white males as being the most susceptible to alcohol abuse, especially if they are involved in a fraternity or athletic programs.


Soares supports personal decisions made with a cool head. Just play it safe and respect its potential, he said, and it will not be a problem. “If they stopped drinking, then I’d be upset.”