T rigger warning: alcoholism mention
There was a lot of discussion about alcohol consumption at this year’s Fling.
Many students took to social media to lash out against Penn’s efforts to crack down on drinking during Fling. They proclaimed that forcibly attempting to regulate students’ drinking during the weekend’s festivities is an inappropriate act that actually makes the situation less safe for students.
Although many of these arguments overlooked the already extravagant privileges that Penn students have in being protected against underage alcohol consumption, I agree with the sentiment. Attempting to so strictly regulate students’ alcohol consumption will have more negative effects than positive ones. I encourage the students who share these ideas to take this discomfort with forcing students’ alcohol intake into all situations. Particularly, I hope that we will all consciously remind ourselves that not everybody is able to or wants to drink alcohol, myself included.
I want to preface this by saying that I do not feel any disdain toward people who drink alcohol. The arguments that I am making here are not directed toward any individual(s), but rather are my observations and frustrations from my experience as a person who does not drink.
While people who don’t drink are often written off as prudish or feeling that they are better than everyone else, it’s important to remember that many choose not to or are unable to drink for a variety of reasons. Some may not drink for religious reasons, personal discomfort, complications with medical conditions and medication (particularly with mental illnesses and anti-depressants) or a personal and/or family history of alcoholism. For me, it’s a combination of several of these factors. However, the reasons — although they may help to illuminate why people don’t drink — aren’t important in order for others to respect those who don’t drink.
At Penn, I have been lucky to surround myself with friends and peers who do not actively try to pressure me into drinking alcohol. Unfortunately, I have still felt this pressure due to the alcohol-centric nature of parties and social interaction that I’ve found at Penn. From the first moment that I was offered a beer at a party to this very day whenever people around me are drinking, I have felt at least a little bit uncomfortable and have had a sense of dread. I can’t quite explain it, but it’s very real.
Being one of the, if not the only, sober person at an event or party can be extremely overwhelming. College sophomore Shan Choudhri has encountered this many times throughout his time at Penn. “Naturally, as someone who goes to parties and events where I might very well be the only sober person, there are times when I feel a bit out of place,” he said . “Additionally, sobriety sometimes brings the added, and usually unwanted, responsibility of looking after drunk peers or taking care of matters that others are too inebriated to take care of, which has the potential to manifest itself as a punishment for not drinking.”
It’s important for those who do enjoy getting drunk and letting loose (which is a completely valid and enjoyable activity for some) to remember not to assume that people who aren’t drinking are going to be completely comfortable and willing to take care of those around them. While we all need to look out for one another when things get rough, it’s important not to use the presence of a non-drinking person to justify getting to the point where we cannot take care of ourselves anymore. It’s dangerous for everyone involved.
For me, this issue boils down to a frustration that I have with the opportunities for fun that present themselves at Penn. While I have had some amazing experiences with my friends while they were drunk, I have had just as awesome times while everyone was sober. Unfortunately, many people see these types of situations as incomplete without alcohol.
We need to remember that people can and do let loose and be carefree with one another without the aid of alcohol. For some, it’s fun to go hard every once in a while, but not everyone is comfortable with those types of situations. When these forms of partying are held up as the “most legitimate” and only type of “real” fun, we can alienate people who (for whatever reason) feel unsafe, unwelcome and unseen in those situations.
Roderick Cook is a College sophomore from Nesquehoning, Pa., studying gender, sexuality and women’s studies. Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.