Alcohol Consumption and Community Impacts

It’s spring in Madison, which means the semester is winding down and – despite a few final bouts of snow – the weather is getting warmer. In addition to attending class and studying for exams, students rightfully look to celebrate the end of the academic year with friends. Students enjoy the sunshine on Bascom Hill, sample new Babcock ice cream flavors, and play catch outside the Kohl Center. While the energy is refreshing, we also recognize that warmer weather can bring about off-campus events that include dangerous levels of alcohol use among students.

A new trend in alcohol consumption – called BORG or blackout rage gallon – involve taking a gallon jug and filling it with a combination of hard liquor and mixers that may include caffeine or electrolytes. Students’ awareness of how much alcohol they are consuming is vastly diminished when drinking from a BORG and can make pacing a challenge. BORGs are often associated with large outdoor events where drinking is prevalent.

We look to parents and families as continued partners in helping students remain thoughtful in their decision making and stay safe while here at UW-Madison. During summer orientation, we encouraged you to talk with your student about alcohol use. Now is a valuable time to revisit these conversations about alcohol, whether or not your student chooses to drink.

Start the conversation

  • What will you do if you feel pressure to drink or are offered a drink and don’t want one?
  • How do you check-in with yourself and your friends to ensure everyone is feeling okay with a situation?

Statements of support

  • No one has the right to cross your boundaries or push you further than you want. This is something you can always talk to me about.
  • It’s important to me that you take care of yourself at college and be thoughtful about your decisions.
  • If you’re concerned about someone’s safety, remember UW has Amnesty Through Responsible Action that ensures both the student incapacitated by alcohol or drugs and the student calling on their behalf does not receive disciplinary actions, sanctions, or citations.

Off-campus events that include dangerous levels of alcohol use present risks to student safety. One prominent example is the Mifflin Street Block Party (Mifflin), an off-campus event on the last Saturday of April that is not university sponsored or sanctioned. Past Mifflin events have brought about property damage, increased reports of sexual assault, use of weapons, and overconsumption of alcohol and other drugs. Madison Police are present to enforce laws and ordinances by ticketing and arresting participants in addition to transporting incapacitated individuals to detox facilities. This year, university officials were present at a neighborhood meeting between Madison Police, the City of Madison, and locals neighbors where safety concerns were expressed along with renewed police enforcement strategies for the event.  While most students choose not to attend this event, we are concerned about the significant risks for students who attend.

We encourage you to talk with your students about their plans around alcohol use as we approach the end of the semester. At UW-Madison, we recognize that all students play a role in fostering a campus community that supports everyone’s health and wellbeing. Alcohol can create potentially harmful situations where judgement is diminished. Excessive alcohol use can impact other students, even if they are not participating in the behavior. How students choose to engage in this community – and the decisions they make – will impact not just individual students, but also those around them.

For more information on having conversations with your student about important health topics – including alcohol use, sexual violence, and mental health – please refer to the handbook Navigating College Culture.