There's a remarkable story in the NY Times this morning about a University of Wisconsin-Madison program to combat dangerous binge drinking on campus.

A program by Chancellor John Wiley that includes notifying families of students who become so drunk they require detox is the focus of the article.

If that program has been publicized in Wisconsin, it has escaped my notice.

What's remarkable about it is Wiley's determination to tackle a problem that has been pervasive on the campus for time immemorial.

In the 1950s and 60s, beer flowed at 18-year-old bars on the campus end of State Street.

The Madison campus used to pride itself as a party school, ranked #1 by Playboy with the notation that it was in a league of its own, not to be compared with amateurs.

Wiley doesn't think it's amusing, and rightly so.

"UNAMBIGUOUSLY, alcohol abuse is the No. 1 health and safety problem on every college campus,” Chancellor Wiley said in a recent interview. “I don’t even know what would be No. 2. Just about every unpleasant incident, every crime, involves alcohol abuse by the victim or the perpetrator. The question is, what do you do that’s effective to prevent it? And there’s no magic bullet.”

Notifying parents will no doubt raise some hackles of those who think Wisconsin is already a "nanny state."

The article, by a Columbia journalism professor, recognizes that:

The Wisconsin policy in some ways is a throwback to the paternalistic past of colleges, when they enforced curfews and housed the sexes in separate dorms.

In another respect, though, the regulations speak to the present day, to a generation of students and parents who stay in contact by cellphone and e-mail on a practically hourly basis.

Many, if not most of the undergrads at UW are relying on Mommy and Daddy to put them through school, at least in part. Parents have a financial investment in their sons' and daughters' education. More importantly, they have an interest in seeing their children survive. Unbridled alcohol abuse can be a killer.

John Wiley will no doubt be criticized by some as a prude who's invading students' privacy.

It appears he is willing to risk that in order to try to save some lives.

More power to him.

Submitted by xoff on