Published Monday, October 23, 2000
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                  Alcohol may have claimed student

                  ASU death is seenas latest in string

                                    By MICHELLE CROUCH

                  An Appalachian State University student from Charlotte died last week
                  after drinking with friends to celebrate his 21st birthday, police said.

                  His death appears to be the latest in a string of alcohol-related
                  tragedies that have colleges and universities in the Carolinas and
                  across the country working to reduce the heavy drinking that many
                  students consider a rite of passage.

                  Philip Edward Thompson, a junior, was found dead Wednesday in his
                  Boone apartment by his roommate, police said.

                  The medical examiner's preliminary observations indicate alcohol
                  poisoning is the likely cause of death, said Boone Police Chief Bill Post.

                  The student's father, Robert Thompson of Charlotte, said he and his
                  son had a tight relationship and had talked about the dangers of

                  "Maybe I was naive," the choked-up father said Sunday. " I knew he
                  might get out of control, but I didn't think he would go to this extreme."

                  Witnesses told police that Thompson was drinking at bars with friends to
                  celebrate his birthday last Tuesday night, Post said. It was unclear how
                  much he had to drink.

                  The final autopsy report and an official cause of death will be released
                  in a few weeks, police said.

                  Thompson graduated in 1997 from Olympic High School, where he was
                  a member of the National Honor Society and enjoyed the outdoors,
                  according to his father. He was majoring in economics at Appalachian
                  State and worked part-time as a waiter at the Daniel Boone Inn.

                  "He was very well-liked. He had an easy-going, likable personality," said
                  Peter Hess, an assistant manager at the inn who worked with Thompson
                  for more than a year.

                  ASU spokesman Bob Shaffer said Thompson recently filed papers to
                  withdraw from the university, but he was unsure of the reason.

                  Binge drinking has been a concern on campuses across the country in
                  recent years, and North Carolina has seen its share of alcohol-related

                  In February, an 18-year-old Belmont Abbey College student was
                  hospitalized after binge drinking at a fraternity party.

                  Last year, Duke University junior Raheem Bath died following a drinking
                  binge that led to a form of pneumonia.

                  And in 1995, a UNC Chapel Hill freshman fell to her death after climbing
                  a campus building following a night of drinking.

                  A 1998 Harvard study showed that more than 40 percent of college
                  students surveyed are binge drinking - defined as four drinks in one
                  sitting for women, five for men.

                  The study also showed that 22.7 percent of students surveyed, or more
                  than one in five, had binged three or more times in the previous two
                  weeks. That was up from 19.8 percent in 1993.

                  A number of Carolina campuses have launched new efforts to curb
                  student drinking. Most are attacking on multiple fronts: more alcohol
                  education, dry campus-sponsored parties and more alcohol-free

                  At Duke University, the school's Alcohol Task Force spent about
                  $30,000 on a series of alcohol-free events earlier this year, but so few
                  students were showing up that the university canceled the remaining

                  ASU stepped up its efforts in 1997, after an 18-year-old freshman
                  accused six football players of sexually assaulting her while she was
                  drunk and incapacitated.

                  That incident was "a wake-up call," said Dale Kirkley, director of the ASU
                  alcohol and drug assistance program, though efforts to reduce alcohol
                  abuse on campus had already begun.

                  "We've had a very active effort in our campus and our community for a
                  number of years," Kirkley said Sunday.

                  ASU staff members work with a group of students, faculty members and
                  community leaders on prevention programs, he said. Efforts include
                  campus speakers, counseling, peer leaders and a theatrical program
                  during freshman orientation.

                  In addition, the school recently launched a media campaign designed to
                  ease the peer pressure on students to drink.

                  "There's a false norm that most students here not only support heavy
                  drinking, but are involved in it," Kirkley said.

                  "The truth is, a large majority of students are not involved in heavy
                  alcohol abuse."

                  ASU junior Gerald Witt said most students at the school go to bars to
                  celebrate their 21st birthdays.

                  "When you turn 21, you go out and get hammered," he said. "But I don't
                  think that means (drinking) is a big problem here."

                  Witt said he has gone to parties at other colleges, "and they party just
                  as hard there as they do here."

                  ASU astronomy professor Daniel Caton agrees that the problem is no
                  greater there than at other campuses.

                  "I know the administration has been concerned about it," Caton said.

                  "But you can only do so much. After that, it's the responsibility of
                  students themselves."

                  Reach Michelle Crouch at (704) 358-5108 or

                  Thompson "There's a false norm that most students here not only
                  support heavy drinking, but are involved in it. The truth is, a large
                  majority of students are not involved in heavy alcohol abuse."

                  Dale Kirkley
                  Director of ASU's alcohol and drug assistance program