The president of Acadia University says he's consulted with Nova Scotia's chief public health officer about reviewing the school's safety policies after a teenaged student was found unconscious after consuming a large amount of alcohol.
"This is a university president's worst nightmare," Ray Ivany told CBC News on Wednesday.
"We've got 3,000 students on our campus. They're here to start their university education and this is something that we work very, very hard to make sure it doesn't happen and unfortunately in this case, it has."
Ivany said he had contacted Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief public health officer.
"He's agreed to help us, so that's the next step," he said.
A 19-year-old student from Alberta was found unconscious early Tuesday morning in a basement dorm room at the Wolfville university.
He was taken to the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and as of Wednesday evening, was in critical condition suffering from severe alcohol poisoning.
Other students told CBC News the student in question was participating in a drinking game on various floors of the Chipman House residence. All official frosh week events are dry, but residences are not.
Ivany acknowledged alcohol was a factor.
"We do know that alcohol consumption was involved through the evening. The family specifically asked us not to share personal information, so that's all I can add," he said.
A combination of alcohol education for students and more than 60 student supervisors are meant to keep the campus safe, said Ivany, but now the university is reviewing all its safety policies and procedures.
Students and staff are shaken, he said.
"They're first and foremost concerned with our student and their family. That's their first concern," said Ivany.
"We'll need a bit of time as a community to come to grips."
Binge drinking highest among N.S. university students
Strang said Wednesday he considers binge drinking in the province's universities to be a significant public health issue.
"On average, around 50 per cent of university students in Nova Scotia will binge drink — and that's five or more drinks on a single occasion — at least once a month," Strang told CBC News.
"The Canadian average for university students is around 30 per cent."
Although heavy drinking among university students isn't a new issue, university representatives said it's one they're finding new ways to tackle.
"We do entirely dry orientation week. There is no alcohol allowed to be served anywhere on campus," said Jamie Arron, the vice president of student life for the Dalhousie Student Union.
Arron said student leaders now plan meet-and-greet events that are fuelled by fun, rather than alcohol.
"I think the issue comes if there's nothing really to do, then they end up stuck in residences, binge drinking," he said.
Andrew Barbour, the marketing and events manager for the Saint Mary's University Students' Association, said there has been a shift in campus culture from the days when organized pub crawls and brewery tours were part of the adjustment to campus life.
"There was more involvement from the alcohol companies, certainly they were represented on campus," he said.
"Since then, we tell our partners not to have a part in orientation week, specifically to prevent this perceived concept of, 'It's OK to drink if you're underage.'"