College drinking carries few repercussions from peers

    It can be said with little hesitation that the favorite pastime of college students is drinking alcohol. Drinking is so synonymous with collegiate amusement that it has acquired an almost esteemed and obligatory status that begs the conditional: If you are a college student, then you must drink.

    Of course, this is not the case, but the prevalence of alcohol on college campuses is undeniable. According to a comprehensive 2001 study by the Core Institute, 85 percent of college students consumed alcohol at least once during the year.

    This incredible prevalence not only exists in dorms and at parties, but also (perhaps more so) in the mindsets, general conversation and perceived norms of college students everywhere. It is commonplace to overhear students talk about drunken revelry and parties on Fridays and hangovers on Monday.

    Even at UCSD, a so-called “”dry”” campus, the presence of alcohol is clearly seen and heard. Alcohol is such a rooted aspect of college that it begs a never-asked question: Why does college social life revolve around alcohol? Namely, what is it about alcohol that makes it overwhelmingly the measurement, embodiment and essence of fun at a university?

    At a second glance, these ponderings may seem somewhat unusual, if not nonsensical. In college, no one really questions the reasons for excessive drinking, much less casual consumption. It’s just something you do, or at least hear about.

    Not to say that there aren’t students out there who abstain from drinking (myself being one of them), but the acceptance of drinking as a social activity is so far embedded in our consciousness that even nondrinkers treat the issue with relative nonchalance.

    Collegiate drinking has little if no stigma, as far as I can see. Start with one large crowd, add a generous helping of alcohol, mix well, and voila! College fun. It makes perfect sense. Well, that is until you look at the logic of it all. Basically, consuming alcohol in excessive amounts blurs and dulls the senses, causes people to do extremely idiotic albeit funny things, frequently vomit, have hangovers, feel like crap, injure themselves and others, drive dangerously, do things they regret, and generally surrender any remnants of intelligence or discretion. While drinking does not always equate with drunkenness, it is a precondition.

    I’m not trying to offend the vast proportion of students here on campus, but really, isn’t the above list of alcohol-induced activities accurate? Bright and hard-working students chug down beer after beer and do it all over again next Friday despite (or because of?) the after-effects. It certainly can’t be the taste alone; very few would probably prefer the taste of liquor over soda unless it is mixed in. It doesn’t make so much sense, now does it?

    It’d be unfair here to merely point a condemning finger at the preferred social activity of college students. And I must disclaim that I am not all familiar with the party scene so many of my observations may be flawed. I admit that the extent of my experience is mostly encompassed by conversations I overhear on the shuttle, characterized by, “”I was soooo hung over.””

    I’ve heard that drinking loosens up the atmosphere and the very quality of being inebriated beyond comprehension lets individuals party down, carefree of reality’s responsibilities. Take a beer bong or a funnel and drown your worries away; or watch someone else do it and laugh your cares away. There must be some appeal if millions of students enjoy it so much. What is puzzling to me is that it seems that the presence of alcohol is integral to having fun. Additionally, the frequently mentioned, alleged dearth of school spirit and social life at UCSD is sometimes attributed to the aforementioned “”dryness”” of our campus.

    If alcohol is the fuel for fun, then perhaps the lack of a fraternity row at UCSD is the reason for the deadness of weekend life. There are parties and clubs galore to indulge in, however, and some students have found it a mostly sufficient substitute. Here, students frolic in alcohol-soaked indulgence and enjoy the craziness and, less so, the stupor that follows.

    One can’t really expect these same students to enjoy a round of Taboo or Twister. There are plenty of ways to have fun without drinking ó movies, conversations, shopping, outings, and yes, board games. They could do all these things without worrying about cops or throwing up yesterday’s breakfast. Students know this, but it’s not the same. After all, drinking is a grown-up privilege that must be employed as soon as parents are out of the picture. And as college is the time to stretch out those wings and fly to freedom, alcohol is a required accompaniment for the ride. If this is true, then the propensity to drink is rooted beyond a mere desire for mindless pleasure.

    Students revel in doing what they are told not to do. Is it inaccurate to say that drinking isn’t as exciting when one turns 21? I don’t know.

    But there must be some allure to fuse the notion of social enjoyment to the consumption of a drink. Students get into other self-destructive patterns with full knowledge of the outcome. Students probably cease the endless parties once they’re out in the “”real world.””

    The reason for college drinking may be the overwhelming need to be like their friends (even though “”peer pressure”” is a term relegated to high school drug-prevention seminars). Maybe it is just more fun when alcohol is served. And, yeah, maybe it is that margaritas and Jell-O shots just taste better than the virgin kinds. Or maybe drinking fulfills a need for pleasure or meaning that is, in fact, insatiable.

    In the end, I can find no complete explanation for the strong pull of the beer can. I do, however, suspect that the answer lies beyond the social circles and deeper into individuals themselves. They must know that something lies beyond the bottle.

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