Culture of alcohol shares blame

2013-02-25T10:30:00Z Culture of alcohol shares blameWisconsin State Journal editorial
February 25, 2013 10:30 am  • 

It's the kind of story that scares every parent: A promising college student dies while highly intoxicated in the cold.

Our hearts go out to the family of Neala Frye, 23, of Evansville, who was working two jobs while studying marketing at UW-La Crosse.

The young woman was found in a ditch Feb. 17 after leaving the Spillway Pub in Onalaska, where she had spent the previous evening at a promotional event for one of her employers, Body and Sol Tanning.

An autopsy last week determined Frye died of hypothermia secondary to intoxication. An initial test suggested her blood alcohol level was 0.21 percent, more than twice the legal limit to drive a vehicle.

UW-La Crosse has had more than its share of tragedies involving alcohol. A string of students over more than a decade have drown in one of the area's rivers while intoxicated late at night.

For years, talk of a possible serial killer persisted. But an FBI investigation pointed to a much more pervasive culprit: excessive drinking leading to accidental death.

UW-La Crosse isn't alone, of course. UW-Madison is notorious for heavy consumption of beer and booze. And a slew of well-meaning efforts on college campuses in Wisconsin haven't seemed to make more than a dent in dangerous drinking.

A big part of the problem are adults of all ages who continue to model irresponsible drinking habits at home and in the community. And Wisconsin's culture of alcohol exacts a heavy toll.

Alcohol abuse is linked to domestic violence and other crimes. It contributes to hundreds of drunken-driving deaths on state highways every year.

Moderate consumption of alcohol is fine. There's even some evidence of positive health benefits.

But Wisconsin's drinking problem is well document and extends far beyond its universities.

Frye's friends told the La Crosse Tribune she wasn't one to get drunk at an unfamiliar bar without her friends, especially while working. Some details of that night remain unclear. She was clearly a bright and talented student — which only makes her fate more chilling.

It could have been just about anyone's daughter, and Wisconsin's culture of alcohol shares in the blame.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(15) Comments

  1. billwebbcp
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    billwebbcp - February 28, 2013 6:12 am
    bad english
  2. dparker
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    dparker - February 27, 2013 10:47 am
    I agree re: Wisconsin's culture of alcohol--I wish the editorial writer had developed that further than dropping it out on the last line. I grew up in that culture and after graduating from the U and heading out west I realized how disproportionately steeped in over drinking my home state is. How about next time specifying indicators of that culture and its relationship to prevalent drink specials, over-service at bars and restaurants,driving drunk-especially up north, easy access to alcohol role of brewers in alcohol policy and availability. The list goes on and on.
  3. uspotme
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    uspotme - February 26, 2013 4:23 pm
    Wisconsin's denial of it's alcohol problem runs deep. How many articles do we see on this website dealing with people having multiple OWI'S. We are just talking southern Wisconsin. Dane and Rock counties mainly. If you don't find that disturbing you are either naive or have an issue with alcohol. It can be no other way.

    Alcoholism is rampant in this state. It's also socially acceptable to drink like this in Wisconsin. I'm a native of Minnesota but my alcoholism followed me to Wisconsin. I fit right in. The people I drank with in Minnesota knew I had a problem. In Wisconsin I was just another guy. Been sober for over twenty years now. I used to bowl on Tuesday nights at Wildcat Lanes in Verona a few years back. My God did people get hammered. People stumbling around, falling off bar stools, and unable to make coherent sentences. On a Tuesday night. I always wondered what these drunks did on the weekend. Scary. Until this state accepts the fact that alcohol abuse is a major problem we will see more tragedies like this. Oh I suppose some of you smart arses will say it's noon somewhere. Hopefully your not next.
  4. NotACynic
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    NotACynic - February 26, 2013 2:19 pm
    But where do they say "we should limit the freedoms of all adults"?
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    GOOD DOG HAPPY MAN - February 26, 2013 10:37 am

    You're still a must-read, Gotch, (aka: "Der Gute Goethe Quota")

    Being of mixed ancestry, kraut/mick/alein-hybrid would you choose a Central Waters Imperial Stout, Porter or locally brewed barley-pop for the beer summit?

    If liberalism is a mental disorder would libruls be allowed to keep and bear arms?

    Try to be a little more culturally sensitive and politically correct, willya? You're scaring the quiche-eaters on Monroe Street.

    Woofda ! ! !

    Good Dog, Happy Man.

  6. Homebrew
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    Homebrew - February 26, 2013 4:01 am
    "Hundreds of deaths" on state highways?. Even the neo-prohbitionist MADD claims only 196 drunk driving deaths in Wisconsin in 2011. Too many? Probably, but some basic fact-checking is in order, not breathless, baseless citing of statistics.
  7. cedillon
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    cedillon - February 25, 2013 10:14 pm
    This is yet another WSJ editorial board non-statement that is left open to interpretation (of their point). They don't call on us to change or to council others to change. They catalog the ills of alcohol, assign blame and define this young lady as a victim. In response to their non-statement I've covered all the bases.
  8. NotACynic
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    NotACynic - February 25, 2013 9:25 pm
    Where do you find that 'implication'?
  9. cedillon
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    cedillon - February 25, 2013 8:05 pm
    What I don't agree with is the editorial board's apparent need to find blame and decide that this 23 year old adult is a victim of something other than her own poor judgement. (I'm assuming there's nothing more to this than what's been reported.) Yes it is tragic but many aspects of life and many of the things adults choose to do come with risk.

    I fully support the effort to highlight tragedies like this so that other responsible adults might take notice and make better choices. At the same time, I fully reject the implication we should limit the freedoms of all adults because we live in an imperfect world.
  10. CapeCod13
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    CapeCod13 - February 25, 2013 7:35 pm
    Neala Frye's death will change nothing because, in Wisconsin, alcohol deaths are just the collatoral damage of an ingained culture of alcohol abuse. But, as a first step, instead of holding feel-good candlelight vigils, Neala's friends should, night after night after night, gather in the parking lot of the Spillway Pub and silently hold flashlights to her photo.
  11. Cornelius Gotchberg
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    Cornelius Gotchberg - February 25, 2013 2:41 pm
    Guys, guys, calm down here. Let's discuss this rationally...over a couple of drinks.

    We'll call it....A "Beer Summit."

    The Gotch
  12. Whazzat
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    Whazzat - February 25, 2013 1:53 pm
    middleoftheroad - I can't decide whether your writing style is due to ADHD or the result of listening to the right-wing radio hacks who also have a difficult time staying on subject, jumping from rant to rant. Tell me, which is it?

    To the subject at hand, alcohol abuse and the pervasive culture of abuse in Wisconsin, I have to say that it's a subject of conversation whenever I travel outside the state. Behavior that Wisconsinites approve of (I assume approval because of the lax laws currently in effect) is met with disproval almost everywhere else in the U.S.. A state of people with so little regard for the safety and welfare of innocent lives, aka your drunk driving laws, are most likely incapable of any reasonable likelihood of good government in general. I rest my case.
  13. Report Abuse
    - February 25, 2013 1:10 pm
    We've already had 15 snowmobile deaths in Wis this year. Most of these involved drinking. How many drunk driving tickets do we have each year and how many of those involve injuries or deaths? Now in contrast - How many hunting related deaths have we had? But still pushing for gun control laws has dominated the news and no one is proposing anything to change the drinking laws.
  14. Report Abuse
    - February 25, 2013 1:06 pm
    So why then will Mayor Soglin Not push for an end to the drunkfest on Mifflin street, but he is pushing to shut down the family oriented carnival and fireworks for Rythym and Booms?
  15. cornflower
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    cornflower - February 25, 2013 1:05 pm
    How did excess alcohol consumption ever acquire the aura of cool? What a tragic waste! Hope her family finds comfort.
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