This week is National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week, and Georgia Southern University's Office of Alcohol & Other Drugs Programs has a variety of student events planned throughout the week to bring attention to the serious public health issues posed by excessive drinking among college students.
"We hope that the events of the week will motivate students to drink responsibly, set healthy limits and never drive while under the influence of alcohol," said Nicole Withers, administrative coordinator.
This year's observance comes during a time of heightened awareness of the problems of drinking in excess and underage drinking after a Georgia Southern University freshman died after being severely beaten by an off-duty bouncer at the now-closed Rude Rudy's.
Grant James Spencer, 20, of Olympic Boulevard, and a junior at Georgia Southern, has been charged with felony murder and aggravated battery in connection with the Aug. 28 assault. Michael Gatto, 18, of Cumming, was unresponsive when police responded to the bar in University Plaza. Gatto was taken to East Georgia Regional Medical Center and then airlifted to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, where he was pronounced dead.
Spencer is being held in Bulloch County Jail. After a bond hearing held Wednesday, Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Chief Judge William E. Woodrum Jr. said he needed time to review the testimony before deciding whether to grant bond. He hadn't made a decision as of Monday afternoon.
The bar was closed after its owner, Jonathan Starkey, agreed to a permanent ban on being in the alcoholic beverages business in Statesboro. That avoided a hearing that was scheduled Sept. 24 before Statesboro City Council.
And six alcohol hearings were held before City Council on Oct. 7 during which those businesses were issued warnings for selling alcohol to underage people. Statesboro police have been performing a number of compliance checks at businesses licensed to sell alcohol since Gatto's death.
Events scheduled for National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week at Georgia Southern are designed to show the monetary, physical, behavioral and emotional consequences of abusing alcohol. The events are as follows:
- "The True Cost of Alcohol, showing the monetary consequences, will be on display at the Russell Union staircase throughout the week.
- Mocktail Bar: Free virgin drinks will be provided along with information about how alcohol affects the body, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Russell Union concession stand, in front of the theater.
- "Define Your Limit" will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Russell Union Rotunda. This encourages students to define their limits with alcohol and prevent negative consequences associated with binge drinking. Students also are encouraged to share their limit on social media using the hashtag #DEFINEGSU.
- Screening of "Impact: After the Crash" will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Russell Union Theater. The film provides a look into the lives of those affected by drinking and driving. Concessions and attendance verification will be provided.
Hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States recognize the importance of campus health promotion efforts addressing alcohol abuse and impaired driving prevention by participating in Alcohol Awareness Week. The events are free and open to all students.
"Our free resources for self-referred students include substance abuse screenings, one-on-one alcohol and marijuana interventions, alcohol and other drug presentations and campus-wide awareness events and programs," said Withers.
For more information, contact the Office of Alcohol & Other Drugs Programs at (912) 478-0108.