Public Comment

Help Needed With Berkeley’s Alcohol Problems

By Sarah Rodriguez’G
Thursday September 25, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

We were saddened to hear of a student’s death due to the over-use of alcohol on yet another college campus (“Is the Parens Patriae Power Dead at UC Berkeley?” commentary, Sept 18). This is a situation that unfortunately happens far too often in university towns all across the United States. Our culture has led us all to believe that college and alcohol go hand in hand. All one has to do is look at how the density of alcohol outlets increases as you approach the Cal campus. Is this what we want for ourselves, our students, and our community of Berkeley?  

The answer is no, not just for neighbors and parents, but also for our youth. Students for a Safer Southside (SFSS) has worked tirelessly for the past three years to help alleviate some of the problems related to students’ alcohol use near campus. We have made partnerships with many different community members and groups such as Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition (BAPAC), the University Health Services, and the Chancellor’s Student Neighbor Task Force. But there is still much more to be done and we invite all community members to join us in our efforts.  

We cannot leave the work to the police; they have been overwhelmed trying to manage the well-documented situation we now have in Berkeley: massive underage drinking, binge-drinking, alcohol-related assaults including sexual assaults, near-deaths due to alcohol poisoning, and several deaths of youth at alcohol-saturated parties. 

As parents and friends of students, as caring adults, and as concerned neighbors, we must assume responsibility for these destructive norms and begin to change them by requiring the city to pass a comprehensive plan which would reduce alcohol sales to minors and educate the entire community, including students, residents, and the business community. We need a dedicated city staff person to help regulate the legal sale of alcohol. We all have a stake in the health and safety of our young; these horrific deaths due to alcohol are unacceptable. 

The Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition (BAPAC) has presented a comprehensive, prevention-based solution to the City Council, but it has been stalled and weakened. Everyone who is interested in this issue is welcome to a meeting from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4 at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst (at MLK Jr Way). We will present data on Berkeley’s alcohol situation and lead a discussion of the status of the Alcohol Retail Ordinance. We hope to see you there. 


Sarah Rodriguez’G is the program coordinator for Students for a Safer Southside, a UC Berkeley student group working to prevent and reduce high-risk drinking in the southside of campus. Karen Klitz is a longtime BAPAC member and a Berkeley resident.