The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 31, 2007

Binge drinking concerns underlined

Death puts a fatal face on problem

MANKATO — Talk to Amanda Jax’s friends. Read the good-byes on her Facebook site. Look at the light in the eyes of young woman with a lifetime of fun ahead of her.

Chances are you’ll come away with picture of a someone whose mere presence could lift the mood of a room.

“She was really the kind of person that could bring you up anytime you saw her,” said Megan Besser, who worked with Jax at The Great Wall restaurant near the Minnesota State University campus. “I just had a customer that asked about her not knowing that she’d passed away.”

Now, of course, the community is getting to know Jax in the most unfortunate of ways. Jax, who had spent an evening drinking and celebrating her 21st birthday, passed out and never woke up. Police are continuing to investigate but say, “It’s very apparent alcohol played a major factor in the death.”

Jax had been convicted twice of alcohol-related offenses, once in Hennepin County in 2005, and once in McLeod County in 2006.

Her friends said she was excited about beginning the nursing program at MSU in January. She’d attended MSU for several years, but was taking this semester off.

Her story has reawakened the debate on binge drinking, an issue MSU’s Health Services has been addressing for years.

Two years ago, the department received an $850,000 grant to conduct a social norming campaign and develop alternative programming, both of which aim to eliminate underage and binge drinking.

So far, both have seen positive results.

Social norming operates on the theory that most people overestimate how much their peers drink. When the realities of college drinking are advertised, students who do drink, the theory goes, will tend to gravitate toward the majority of students who don’t. They’ve used posters, rest room billboards, newspaper ads and other media to get this message out.

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