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Student government discusses Four Loko

Megan Doyle | Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The University will investigate the dangers of alcoholic energy drinks like Four Loko, a caffeinated, alcoholic beverage with 12 percent alcohol content, and discuss whether banning such drinks from campus would be the right move, a University representative said at Monday’s Campus Life Council (CLC) meeting.

Assistant vice president for Student Affairs Brian Coughlin asked council members to participate in the committee that will decide how to handle Four Loko on campus.

“We do not want to make this decision in a vacuum,” Coughlin said. “We want to have conversations about what is the best step for the University of Notre Dame and what is best for our students.”

The committee would discuss how to educate students about the dangers of a drink like Four Loko and whether a ban on the product would be right for Notre Dame’s campus.

Coughlin said the mixture of alcohol with caffeine makes alcoholic energy drinks like Four Loko particularly dangerous to students.

Students over the legal drinking age of 21 may possess or consume drinks of less than 14 percent alcohol content in residence halls, and hard alcohol is banned from dorms, according to the student handbook, du Lac.

“Technically Four Loko falls within the parameters of our alcohol policy for students over 21,” Coughlin said. “Right now the allowing [of] the drink goes on a hall-by-hall basis where each rector decides.”

But Coughlin said the University’s interest in researching the effects of Four Loko was sparked by recent incidents on campus.

“This was born out of a high number of ambulance runs in the past few weeks,” he said. “The uptick of hospitalization was a catalyst for this conversation.”

Several universities and state governments banned Four Loko as the risks of the drink became apparent, he said. Rectors on the council said they saw these dangers in their dorms as well.

Stanford rector Fr. Tom Gaughan said his hall staff put out a word of caution to their students when he first learned about the product Four Loko.

“To put a stimulant and a depressant in your body at the same time is a health risk,” Gaughan said. “And despite our efforts to warn students it has not deterred appearances in the halls.”

Council members debated whether a ban would only increase interest instead of preventing students from drinking Four Loko.

Student body vice president Andrew Bell said students looking to experience alcohol to an extreme would be drawn even more to Four Loko after a ban.

“If something like this is banned, it is banned because it is dangerous,” Bell said. “As a side effect, because it is banned, people might do it more behind closed doors.”

Educating students on the health risks of Four Loko will be a focus on campus whether or not the product is banned, Coughlin said.

“I would hope that whatever the committee decides to do as police is not the end of the story,” Gaughan said. “That is one part of the story, but the other part is ongoing education.”

The committee is unsure about whether the drink will be banned but will consider all the options, Coughlin said.

“Ultimately we are going to make the best decision we can for the health and safety of the student body,” Coughlin said.