In college drinking culture, moderation does not exist.
Approximately 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder. Additionally, a 2014 survey found that two-thirds of the 60 percent of college students who consumed alcohol in the past month engaged in binge drinking, a behavior that brings blood alcohol concentration to more than .08 g/dL.
Students here are eager to boast about the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle that is fundamental to the Penn experience. They join countless clubs to build their resumes, crank out research papers at Van Pelt and ace calculus midterms. But the weekends start on Thursday along with students’ destructive drinking habits.
The consequences of this behavior are no secret. Researchers estimate that 1,825 college students die per year from alcohol related injuries, 696,000 students are assaulted by another who has been drinking and 97,000 experience date rape or alcohol-related sexual assault. We have seen these statistics in action through the recent death of Pennsylvania State University student Tim Piazza and the Stanford University sexual assault case.
Some of the Penn administration’s attempts to reduce the negative effects of binge drinking have been effective. For example, the University’s medical amnesty policy allows students to seek medical attention while under the influence without facing disciplinary repercussions, while MERT provides urgent care to those who have been affected by alcohol poisoning among other issues.
Nevertheless, the administration needs to pay more attention to alcohol abuse on campus. Additionally, we as students must do our part to stop fostering an excessive drinking culture.
The University recently convened a task force to help combat the dangers of excessive drinking, which has been the subject of much scrutiny. However, the task force has inadequately addressed this issue and only caters to the wealthy by raising the cost of partying.
Additionally, aside from Quaker Peer Recovery, there are no groups on campus specifically designed to help those struggling with alcoholism or related issues. Administrators never fail to point students seeking help to Counseling and Psychological Services; however, they often must wait months for appointments. What the University fails to recognize is that, like so many of the issues students face, binge drinking demands immediate attention.
College is stressful. Students are bombarded with exams, essays and readings that they must juggle with other responsibilities such as jobs and extracurriculars. The stress that is induced by these activities can often lead to heavy drinking.
Alcohol consumption releases endorphins that stimulate an enhanced state of being. It can make people experience pleasurable sensations of relaxation and euphoria, and the extreme amount of pressure college students face often motivates them to binge drink as a means for recovery.
This is not just a Penn problem; binge drinking plagues numerous American universities. But what makes Penn different is its glorified “work hard, play hard” mentality.
In 2016, Business Insider awarded Penn the number one spot in their list of rankings entitled WORK HARD, PLAY HARD: The 30 most intense colleges in America; in 2014, Penn was named Playboy’s number one party school; and in the book “Students' Guide to Colleges: The Definitive Guide to America's Top 100 Schools Written by the Real Experts--The Students Who Attend Them,” some of the five most common terms students used to describe Penn included “work hard, play hard,” “high achieving” and “fun-as-hell.”
Social skills and academic prowess hold equal importance. But there is a fine line between possessing these skills and taking pride in Penn’s reputation as the “social Ivy” where the ability to go out, get blackout drunk and wake up the next morning to do homework is applauded. The positive reinforcement of these mantras by students fuels the unhealthy behavior that runs rampant at Penn.
On many occasions, students have called on the University to implement effective policie and form groups that will mitigate the consequences of excessive drinking. Undoubtedly, it is time for the administration to listen.
Students should also refocus their attitudes by thinking differently about how rewarding binge drinking promotes a negative campus culture. “Work hard, play hard,” when taken to its extreme, is not something to brag about.
ISABELLA SIMONETTI is a College freshman from New York. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. “Simonetti Says So” usually appears every other Tuesday.
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