Here is an article reviewing new research into binge drinking on college campuses. The research suggests binge drinking is significantly related to the type of environment and found on the college campus. Among the factors most significantly associated with a high level of binge drinking were a strong drinking culture, relatively few alcohol control policies, weak enforcement of those policies, and easily assessable alcohol. The article goes on to discuss other factors and issues as well.
A major issue I found when I was an undergraduate student (about a thousand years ago) was a lack of alternatives to the party scene on Friday and Saturday nights. I always found it interesting the university administration consistently reached low tolerance for alcohol abuse (I attended a Jesuit university), yet never seemed concerned enough to actually offer any other activities over the weekend. The library closed at 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evening, and while there were occasional performance art-related activities offered here and there, the schedule was inconsistent at best, and there were very few seats in any event. The school’s sporting events were generally over by 9 p.m. What did the administration think the students were going to do? By the time I was a senior, the university had taken some small steps to remedy this, including an occasional “all niter” at the recreation center (which normally closed by 9 p.m.), as well as an increase in performances by the various performing arts groups. By the time I graduated, however, there was still very little to do most weekend evenings, outside of going to a party. I certainly hope that the situation has changed, as I agree with the assertion by the researchers that if real alternatives were offered, students will take advantage of them. I can only speak for myself and my friends at the time, but if they have left the recreation center open until midnight on the weekends, we would have been in there every Friday and Saturday night playing pickup basketball, or some other sport. We likely would have even been in there working out in the event the courts were too crowded - I know this because there were several times I found myself jogging around the track late at night on the weekend after getting off of work. It was too late to find anywhere to go, I wanted to get it some exercise, and the university saw fit to restrict available options to me jogging around a track that wasn’t even lit. Yet, they were very concerned about alcohol use (sarcasm off).