In the fall of 2011, I arrived at Georgetown. I was full of excitement for the grand adventure I was going to embark on at this lauded institution. I had no idea what to expect and spent much of my first week highly anticipating the weekend, when I would finally find out what all these college kids did for fun. Oh boy, was I in for a treat.
After class on our first Thursday of the year, I joined some of my new neighbors to talk about plans for the weekend. I went in ready to hear what was in store, but I was slowly filled with confusion and, admittedly, a streak of brief panic when everyone started referring to things that made little sense to me. Instead of embarrassing myself in front of potential new friends, I retreated back into my room with my questions still echoing around in my head.
How are they going to pregame if there aren’t any soccer or football games until next week? Are the handles connected to something or is that just some game they play in college?
As Friday night finally arrived, the unbridled disbelief at the scene unfolding before my eyes was crushing. I came back to my cluster on the eighth floor of Harbin and immediately realized that all plans were focused on drinking alcohol. My friends asked if I wanted to go out and drink, but I told them that I don’t drink and that I guess I would just sit out this time. I told myself not every weekend would be like this and I would eventually find a way to socialize on weekend nights.
But as the weeks went by and nothing changed, I had to stop lying to myself. When word got around that I didn’t drink and didn’t want to join in on parties with alcohol, most of my fellow students decided I wasn’t a lot of fun and wouldn’t make a good addition to their friend group.
After hearing stories of how student clubs made you drink on initiation night, I threw out the fliers I picked up at SAC fair and figured it would be best not to join anything. Georgetown’s drinking culture got in my head early, and at 17 years old, I didn’t stand a fighting chance.
To say that Georgetown has an underage drinking problem is about as much of an understatement as saying our tuition is high. Freshmen face little resistance when it comes to finding and consuming alcohol, which enforces a culture that not only condones unwise, unhealthy, and immature behavior, but also marginalizes those who choose not to buy into it. Unfortunately, GUSA executives Trevor Tezel and Omika Jikaria made it a whole lot worse last week.
While GUSA is supposed to be advocating for all of Georgetown’s students, they chose only to give freshmen who drink more to cheer about when they helped enact a new policy that allows alcohol violations to be wiped from disciplinary records during a student’s first year, as long as they complete certain sanctions. It is widely understood that freshmen are going to drink, whether it’s against the rules or not, but the threat of having violations on their record was one of the main deterrents keeping alcohol abuse among freshmen from getting out of control.
GUSA and the University administration are terribly misguided if they think that freshmen are going to take their misdemeanors as a learning experience and not just a free pass to be even more belligerent. This new policy tells them that they don’t need to worry about being caught intoxicated or in possession of alcohol because they can just complete some sanctions and all other repercussions will vanish.
When I received the press release detailing this news, I despaired for the current freshmen who choose not to drink and are currently finding out for themselves just how hard it is to fit in at a place where alcohol is the cornerstone of socializing. Tezel was quoted in the press release as saying, “This change makes the Code of Student Conduct fairer for students.” Fairer for whom, though? It doesn’t seem too fair to the minority of freshman who leave alcohol out of their lives and now have to deal with the subsequent strengthening of the drinking culture that will follow this change.
Seeing the new direction that is being taken makes me more relieved than ever to be in my last year here. Each semester, I become more and more disheartened over how integral alcohol is to socializing at Georgetown. I guess the problem has become so serious that the administration must admit defeat and lighten consequences to alcohol violations. For a university that so vigorously touts its Jesuit values to incoming freshmen, I thought that, maybe, it would hold its commitment to student life in higher esteem.