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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
September 29, 2023

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SMU warns of binge drinking deaths

DALLAS – Students and parents at Southern Methodist University’s orientation watch a film about a fraternity pledge in Massachusetts who died after a rum and beer binge. They learn that half of the nation’s high school seniors have tried illegal drugs and that 1,700 college students die each year from injuries tied to alcohol.

The message is particularly painful – and relevant -as this school year begins at SMU in Dallas.

Between December and May, three undergraduates died of drug or alcohol overdoses. That toll would stand out at any college, but it’s especially conspicuous at SMU, a close-knit campus of 11,000 students that has long tried to shake its party-school reputation.

So with dormitories and fraternity houses full again and classes under way, campus leaders are trying new approaches and beefing up past efforts to curb drug and alcohol abuse. Professors and other staffers have ideas of their own.

Will they work? This academic year is a crucial test.

Some faculty, parents and students have criticized SMU’s administration for doing too little, too late last year to address substance abuse or investigate the student deaths. A few wonder whether some endeavors, like a task force created by the administration after the fatalities, are more about public relations than the hard work of changing the campus culture.

“The University will say that it’s doing a lot, it’s putting in place a lot of new program. But in my estimation, they are things that have been created to look good. It’s window-dressing,” said George Henson, a Spanish lecturer and one of the most vocal critics.

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