When we look at drinking in college, it’s important to seperate the myths from the realities. Or, more likely, look at where the two eclipse each other. A lot of people see college students portrayed as binge drinkers, irresponsible, and just generally unworthy of the education they are getting. I have some bad news. The way college students are portrayed in TV and movies is only slightly exaggerated.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. In areas where drinking isn’t so frowned upon, students frequently spend Friday and Saturday nights out with friends at the bars. Not necessarily getting wasted, but having a few drinks out with friends and having fun. House parties are also a good option, but those tend to be where the binge drinkers congregate, as they aren’t in public and don’t have to walk home afterward.
How do I have this inside knowledge, some of you may be wondering? Well, it’s because I happened to be lucky enough to go to a different college before attending this one. I spent a couple of years at Oklahoma State University in what was very much a college town- Stillwater, OK.
I managed to get accepted into a small fraternity on campus, kind of the outcasts on campus type of thing. I fit in there, and enjoyed the experience a lot. Especially the drinking. It was something that was important on that campus. Socially you had to at least be around beer, even if you didn’t drink it, just because it was so prevalent on campus.
Drinking was just what you did on the weekends. You went out with friends, either to the bars, or to a house and hung out and chatted and shared a few beers. It wasn’t the beer ponging, shot pounding, drinking-gaming reverly that they show you in the pictures. It was a tradition, and one that people on campus took very seriously, and almost seemed to have reverence for.
It became concrete in my mind that it was, in fact, a tradition when I missed all my classes due to the aftermath of my 21st birthday. My teachers all knew my birthday was coming up, and the few I didn’t happen to see at the bars, sent me their condolances and wishes. My absences were excused for that day, and they were perfectly OK with the fact that I was out getting completely destroyed the night before. It was just expected.
That’s just what happened when you turned 21. You drank so much that you never wanted to drink again, or you ended up in the hospital. Either way, the teachers knew that was something that school couldn’t be bothered to get in the way of. It was an experience that needed to happen.
After I moved here to Utah, I noticed that drinking didn’t hold that social importance that it used to. If people frown upon drinking, then why would it be celebrated?
Instead, bars became this kind of guilty pleasure. People go and skulk around, not being as open and social as I remember. Groups of people tend to stick together instead of just everyone getting to know everyone.
In a way it was frightening, but it hasn’t been a terrible experience. Whether good or bad, my drinking has decreased, just a few beers here or there with good friends. It generally happens in their apartment, while watching a movie or playing a game. It’s not quite the same experience, but I enjoy it anyway.
The stigma attached to drinking here is something that takes away from the college experience. It creates a wall that is hard to overcome, especially when people can’t just go out and get to know each other in a fun and welcoming atmosphere.
Drinking brought the campus together, and without it college just isn’t the same.
Cameron Simek is the Opinions editor for the UVU Review at Utah Valley University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on twitter @Skabomb. www.uvureview.com