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College Culture: Drinking to Blackout

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Article Written By Alexa Doiron

Photo Courtesy of unomaha.edu

Alcohol and college life have been synonymous for as long as most people can remember. However, it seems that in recent years the amount of alcohol abuse and underage drinking has risen which in turn has created the “drinking to blackout” culture in which students now find themselves.

Eighty percent of college students drink with the intention of getting drunk, says federal health officials. The culture of drinking on campuses is no longer one of casual nights out, but drinking to the point where entire hours of an evening are missing. This abuse has started to cause concern for most university administrators but the real issue that they seem to be forgetting is why this type of behavior has spiked.

As a Senior, I have seen and had my share of a typical college night. When I first came to Roanoke College, I had never tasted anything but the occasional beer. After a semester in the college environment though, I was learning my way through the liquor shelves. However, my experience is hardly comparable to some of the binge drinking in which students participate.

One aspect that has led to the rise in excessive drinking is the art of the pregame. Before coming to college, I had never heard of this but it took less than a week for me to be introduced to the concept. A pregame is a smaller party before the party where friends get together, usually in someone’s room, to drink heavily so that they have enough alcohol in their system to keep them sufficiently drunk while out at night. These events make students far less aware of the amount of alcohol they’re actually consuming because it usually involves games such as Beer Pong or Slap Cup that are fun even when you’re losing. Students start to drink heavily during these games and continue to do so in order to keep playing. This prevents students from keeping an accurate count of their drinks or realizing the amount of time that is passing.

Another prevalent aspect that has led to the intense binge drinking culture in college is the amount of stress students are under during school. Drinking is a way to easily separate play from work and the phrase “work hard, play hard” is exactly what students are doing. Nationally, the atmosphere at universities prevents students from knowing how to relax which is what leads them to this outlet. Universities offer other, alternative events on campus but they often are not viewed as a way to unwind. Students have to participate in so many campus-sponsored activities already in order to have a competitive resume. Colleges aren’t teaching students a lesson that might be most valuable: how to relax. If this were more emphasized on campus, students could turn to alternatives to help them psychologically unwind.

However, administrators across the board don’t seem overly concerned with changing in policies to help with this issue. In fact, regulations are becoming lighter and college officials are turning a blind eye to the issue more and more often in hopes that something drastic, such as one of the 1,800 student deaths caused by alcohol annually.

Roanoke College has its own personal take on the issue and most students will remember taking Alcohol Edu freshman year. This is a system that is implemented by many universities, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Sites such as Alcohol Edu are designed to be interactive and engaging to teach students how to be safe while drinking, but most students see it as a joke and a waste of their time. What colleges forget is that 18-year-old Freshmen will do almost anything to fit into their new environment which often requires binge drinking. The culture isn’t going to change unless it is changed within the infrastructure of the student body. This means promoting alternative, non-school related, ways to relax with friends and have fun. Ultimately, the biggest thing universities are struggling with is changing the “cool” association that comes with binge drinking.

In the media, students are taught that college equates to drinking before they even step foot on a campus. This association is so prevalent in our society that students have started to view binge drinking and partying as a basic right. Without it, most students feel as if they aren’t having the full college experience.

The important aspects in changing this culture is by creating an environment for students that draws a clear line between work and play. The overworked young adults that romp around campuses across the country need to be taught better ways to manage their stress and the difference between social drinking and binge drinking. Until college administrators can create this change, students will continue to enter an environment that promotes an atmosphere of psychological issues.