Last May, Everett Glenn, a popular Lafayette College freshman and a star fencer, celebrated his 19th birthday by doing some heavy drinking.

Thirty-five minutes after being found unconscious in his dorm, he was pronounced dead at Easton Hospital. Doctors told his mother he suffered a heart attack.

The freshman year can be a difficult transition for many college students who find themselves separated from family and familiar surroundings for the first time in their life. With these pressures, along with the academic challenges, more students are turning to alcohol, which some refer to as "liquid courage."

A USA Today study in 2006 found that freshman accounted for 40 percent of undergraduate suicides, 47 percent of undergrad deaths on campus, and half of deaths from falls out of windows and off rooftops. Of these deaths, one out of five was found to have been drinking.

Every year, an estimated 1,825 students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from injuries sustained by excessive alcohol use. This works out as nearly one death for every two colleges in America.

A huge amount of alcohol is often consumed during hazing, whereby students are forced to endure trials in order to earn membership into select groups such as fraternities. Unfortunately, thousands of lives have been scarred through these rituals, and some have even caused death.

Penn State's reputation as a party school is well known but its alcohol problem goes well beyond the tailgating at football games and "State Patty's Day." The drinking has affected the campus town of State College, where seven out of every 10 people is between the ages of 15 and 24. State College Chief of Police Tom King says two-thirds of all crime in the borough is alcohol-related and more than 90 percent of physical and sexual assaults are fueled by alcohol.

King, calls it a "serious epidemic," pointing out that nearly half of the borough's $9 million budget goes to police enforcement, and falls to the taxpayers. He says a week does not go by whereby police must take persons to the hospital for alcohol overdose, or when there are reports of people urinating in people's yards.

The drinking epidemic at Pennsylvania colleges has led to new Pennsylvania legislation that will soon increase the maximum fine for public drunkenness and allow college towns to add a $100 fee to a slew of alcohol-related crimes that would help fund local alcohol prevention programs. On Christmas Eve, the fine for underage drinkers will increase from $300 to $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for a second offense.

It's estimated that the increased fines will generate an additional $6 million for Pennsylvania municipalities. The increased fines were supported by the Pennsylvania District Attorney's Association, Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association and Pennsylvania Municipal League.

We agree with Sen. Jake Corman, the bill's sponsor, and Gov. Tom Corbett, who signed the legislation, that the stiffer penalties will help discourage young drinkers. Students must learn that there are consequences to be paid for crossing the line of civil behavior.

In addition, this will give some relief to taxpayers, the ones who have been footing the bill for all the extra police time and property damage.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [1]