Can Water Coolers Reduce Binge Drinking on Campus?

After an uptick in medical transports related to alcohol poisoning, one college is testing if water coolers at campus parties can reduce binge drinking.


At Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., the Patterson Court Council and the Student Government Association are hoping that water coolers shared with campus apartment party hosts might curb binge drinking, according to the Davidsonian, campus news.

Student body leaders came up with the idea after they met with the council after binge drinking during the first week of the school year led to a spate of medical transports for students that had blacked out from alcohol poisoning.

If it works, the school will reimburse the student body for the water coolers’ expense.

Campus Drinking Norms

A survey administered to Davidson students every two to three years since 1996 looks at alcohol consumption patterns within the student population. Last year’s survey indicated that 58 percent of Davidson students used alcohol one to three times per week within the last year.

“The people that are drinking way over that tend to see that and start to slowly adjust down and the people that are in that range feel reaffirmed that they’re in the majority, that it’s okay to be this moderate drinker,” said Georgia Ringle, faculty who conducts the survey.

Jason Shaffer, director of student life and associate dean of students, is concerned that excessive drinking behavior must be addressed before it becomes too deeply entrenched in the current student population.

“There is a substantial population of students who are making low-risk choices most of the time, and there is a small but impactful population of students who are making high-risk or very high-risk choices,” he said.

Shaffer cited how students, particularly the freshmen, perceive campus drinking norms as critical.

The more [blackouts] become celebrated, the more they become institutionalized within the culture as acceptable, sought-after behavior,” he said.

The campus has also hired a counselor to assist students and has convened a body composed of students, faculty and administration to look at campus drinking policy.

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