Opinion: More weekend programming would curb underage and excessive drinking
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 22:02
As a social experiment, I’d recommend you stop drinking alcohol at UConn for a month. What other options do you have as a UConn student for the weekend if you’re not out partying with your friends? Are they fun? Do you enjoy your weekends drinking or not drinking? Is it possible to go to UConn, not drink, and still be satisfied by your social experience? Or has UConn left you with few options for the weekend beyond a crazy night out?
In my opinion, the University of Connecticut is not offering students enough options for weekend activities that are unrelated to drinking, leaving alcohol consumption as the only choice for a fun weekend.
Now, as a general disclaimer for this article, this is not an attack on underage drinking or its legality. Nor is it a black and white opinion, saying you either drink or you don’t drink. It’s also not a negative to enjoy the party scene. This is an article describing the problem with the American college system, specifically UConn, which puts forth little effort to change the drinking culture. This isn’t me telling you not to drink. This is an article arguing we need to look at the facts.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 40 percent of college students binge drink (drinking four to five drinks in a two hour period) at least once every two weeks. Additionally, 19 percent of college students fit the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence according to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, with negative impacts on their social life, academics and health. In conclusion, students need more alternatives for weekend events if the university expects to do anything in regards with underage or problematic drinking.
This is just a part of the larger issue, that supposedly everyone drinks at college. Looking at the numbers, 88 percent of all college students have consumed alcohol, according to the NIAAA. However, among most adults, only 4 in 10 are regular drinkers (had at least one alcoholic beverage in the past week) according to Gallup. For college students, 72 percent have consumed alcohol in the past month, meaning college students are clearly not as representative of the population’s actual attitudes towards drinking. The problem with college drinking is the misguided belief that everyone is drinking.
Coming back to UConn, we have a history of being a party school, especially from the infamous Spring Weekend. I very much disagreed with their lockdown on campus last year, with absolutely no programming alternatives. What are students supposed to do on campus if there is no other option? The answer is drink alcohol and party, something the University was working against. For this year, UConn is instituting specific programming for the weekend to prevent large amounts of partying seen in years prior. However, if UConn’s Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) policy is “possession of alcohol on all of the University of Connecticut campuses is limited to persons 21 years of age or older” and that it “has been established to support a safe and legal use of alcohol,” why would they not provide the same level of programming attention to every other weekend when students can and will party?
The solution is not to prevent students from partying merely through lockdowns and a police force. The solution is for more programming. Let’s talk about Late Night. The programming team behind Late Night is excellent and if you attend their events, you will be satisfied. However, the university has not given the proper backing and importance to this organization to reduce the long wait times many often suffer from. Most importantly, according to Late Night representatives in the Student Programming Office, Friday nights see an average of 400 students, while Saturday nights serve an average of 70 students. Meaning it underwhelming under-serves the 17,528 undergraduates at Storrs.
What’s the problem then? The problem isn’t that Late Night, a program funded by student activities fees, is ineffective. The problem is that there needs to be more than Late Night. People are scared to program on weeknights because no one will come because everyone’s just going to go out and drink and not attend your event. Still, we need more variety in the options we have available to us that don’t involve alcohol. We need a college climate that says, “You drink responsibly. Cool. You don’t drink at all and want fun programming alternatives? Cool.” You can choose to drink, but if you choose not to, the University of Connecticut is obligated to use your student activities fees for programming that gives you the option to follow its alcohol policy. Otherwise, there will be no winner in the underage drinking debate.