With oath, university moves to end students’ alcohol woes

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Otaru University of Commerce in Hokkaido is planning to have all of its students sign a written oath foreswearing any engagement in hazardous drinking activities following several alcohol-related tragedies, including one death.

The move was prompted by a high-profile 2012 incident in which nine members of its American football team, including seven minors, were hospitalized for acute alcohol poisoning after a barbecue organized by the team. One of them, a 19-year-old male student, later died.

In a separate incident, a 19-year-old archer was hospitalized in May last year after a bout of excessive drinking.

“We can only hope the move will help prevent such tragic events in the future,” said Osamu Kurashige, chief of the university’s academic affairs division.

Although the details are pending, Kurashige said the university is considering making its 2,300 students, including freshmen, submit written pledges to refrain from binge drinking or forcing it upon anyone else.

The unusual initiative was suggested by an independent panel set up after the 2012 tragedy, Kurashige said.

He said the university also hopes the written statements will pressure students to follow through on their promises, noting that they will probably start signing them by the end of this fiscal year.

While this move alone will not be enough to stamp out alcohol-related fatalities across Japan, it is a sign “the school has become finally serious” in its battle against binge drinking, said Akiko Baba, a member of Japan Specified Nonprofit Corporation to Prevent Alcohol and Drug Problems, a Tokyo-based citizens group.

In a poll conducted by the group last year, in which it asked 748 universities across the country whether they are doing anything to discourage students from drinking alcohol in the presence of younger students, 94 schools, or 29.3 percent of the 321 universities that responded, replied that they ban drinking with minors.