EDITORIAL: Clear the air about alcohol

Photo by Elise Krivit/ elise.krivit@marquette.edu

We know you’ve heard it a million times. Whether by parents, orientation discussions or AlcoholEdu, Marquette students are accustomed to this refrain.

But we tend to forget that alcohol can come down to life and death.

On July 15, Jeff Wielichowski of Greenfield, Wis., died after drinking a mixture of 190-proof Everclear grain alcohol, Red Bull and Gatorade. He had jumped into his family’s pool, passed out and sunk to the bottom.

His friends pulled him out, but they did not tell his parents who were home that he appeared to be passed out, nor did they call an ambulance. By the time his parents realized what had happened, tried to administer CPR and called 911, it was too late. He was 22.

Wielichowski’s mother Luanne is now on a mission to ban high-powered grain alcohol like Everclear in Wisconsin. Restrictions or bans on the alcohol exist in over 12 states, including two of the state’s neighbors, Minnesota and Michigan.

His mother maintains that young people like her son do not realize how strong these substances are. At 190-proof, a drink is 95 percent alcohol.

Prohibition came along in 1919 largely due to the outcry from wives and mothers who saw the damage drinking was doing to their husbands and families. Ultimately though, prohibition failed.

We do not support a ban on Everclear. Those of legal drinking age are adults who should be able to make these choices for themselves.

But we can sympathize with Luanne Wielichowski. What else can she do but seek to ensure more young people do not end up dead in the same manner as her son? In her grief, she wants to educate, and she wants to prevent more pain and more senseless loss of life.

If we do not want to see restrictions of Everclear or other alcohol like it, we need to educate ourselves and be responsible when drinking. Otherwise, who’s to say we don’t need a restriction for our own safety?

This story reminds us to watch out for our friends. It is simply not worth worrying about getting in trouble if someone at a party appears to be extremely intoxicated and in need of medical help.

While Marquette does not currently have an amnesty policy in place for a student who calls for assistance on behalf of an intoxicated student, it should be noted that the responding agencies such as the Department of Public Safety or emergency medical technicians would place a much bigger priority on attending to the student needing help than bothering to take disciplinary action against the caller. In practice, the caller’s name would rarely, if ever, be included in the report, according to a representative from the Division of Student Affairs.

Most, if not all, of Wielichowski’s friends were probably of legal drinking age, and they still did not take action to help their friend.

Perhaps we need to reeducate ourselves on when to get help for a friend.

For most college students, alcohol and drunkenness are not unfamiliar sights. Because of its familiarity, students can get accustomed to not taking it seriously when the time calls for it.

The mix Wielichowski drank was playfully nicknamed “Tucker Death Mix”—yet the humor is understandably lost when someone actually dies from it.

We are young.

We are not immortal. We have dreams of tackling the world with our friends by our side and our Marquette education in hand.

There is no reason to gamble with that future by drinking a death mix for fun on a Friday night.